Marvel Presents 6

Marvel Presents 6 was cover dated August 1976 and was on sale May 1976, sharing the spinner racks with Action #462,  Avengers # 150, Brave & the Bold #129, Captain America #200, Green Lantern #90 and Thor #250.

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Marvel Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy 6 was written by Steve Gerber with art by Al Milgrom & Terry Austin and opens with a now fully functional ship Captain America flying towards a giant creature identified by Yondu as Karanada which is  devouring a nearby planet. Nikki loses patience with watching it happen and flies towards the creature despite the objections of the rest of the crew. The ship fires on the creature with no effect whatsoever and as they pass through the creatures energy field, suffer spacial distortions with affect all but Martinex who has different visual receptors. The ship passes through the creature and lands on a landmass, but Martinex has no idea where they are. Nikki defends her actions and is backed up by Yondu, much to the chagrin of Vance, who when he learns of the crews intention to explore storms off into his room.

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Nikki follows Vance who seems to be having some kind of existentialist crisis. He talks about the ludicrous nature of his own existence and behaves erratically, at one point picking Nikki up. Charlie-27 interrupts and demands that Vance drop her and the two leave with Vance becoming less coherent.

The remainder of the Guardians walk out onto a desert. Nikki comments on how it feels like she’s stepping on someone’s face each time they take a step and Martinex points out how strange the life form readings are. More complex and intense forms are ahead and the team find a group of nomadic reptiles, primitive in some ways, fearing them as demons and threatening them with knives. They are made short work of, by Charlie and Yondu, leaving the nomads to change their attitude and invite them into the largest tent. One of the nomads calls for his son Hadji, who turns out to be a surviving Starhawk.

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Meanwhile on the ship, Vance finds himself attacked by minature copy of the Karanada creature which begins to drain his life force away. Using his pyschokinetic powers he holds it off and examines it to see it’s a tiny mote of matter projecting an energy field, it’s as big as a grain of sand in reality and the desert outside could be entirely composed of these creatures. Vance and Charlie speak over the communicators and Starhawk’s instructions are relayed and Vance pilots the ship through the desert and sees the planet, which is shaped as a man.

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Vance is then confronted by his younger self and Starhawk leads the rest to a hidden temple.

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Notes: I’m  finding these issues a bit of a hard sit to be perfectly honest. The story is a little plodding and Karanada so far just seems like a variation on Galactus. No one in this comic is as far as I can see an sympathetic character. The only interesting characteristic seems to be Vance’s post traumatic stress disorder-like breakdown, but without any sympathy for them, this doesn’t really add much to the story. The art is the saving grace here, with the topographical man being a very striking visual image. It does get better though as the team and the comic struggle with what to do in a post Badoon world.

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Marvel Presents 5

Marvel Present #5 was cover dated June 1976 and went on sale March 1976, sharing the spinner racks with Action Comics #460, Avengers #148, Flash #242, Incredible Hulk #200, Superman #300 and X-Men #99.

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Planet of the Absurd was written by Steve Gerber and the art was by Al Milgrom and the legendary Howard Chaykin. And opens with the ship Captain America in dire need of repairs with life support failing, the whole team apart from Martinex is sent to the surface of a nearby planet, Martinex points out that he needs neither warmth, nor light nor air to work on the repairs.

Vance, Yondu, Charlie-27 and Nikki appear on a rooftop and are taken by a hairy alien creature who is carrying a shotgun and leads them to what appears to be a gangster’s lair. All of the creatures are different aliens, but they all seem to be different species. After a brief tussle, which the Guardians have little trouble in. The team leave the building and find themselves in what looks like Times Square, although the population is again made up of dozens of different alien species. The team splits into two. Charlie and Nikki get into a fight at an arcade, whilst Vance and Yondu end up running from a shop after Vance pays for some parts with Yondu’s arrow without asking Yondu, who promptly retrieves it.

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The team splits up further and each have their own little adventures, Charlie gets locked up in prison, until he gets bored and breaks out by smashing the walls down. Nikki encounters a cult and causes mischief and Yondu finds himself at a political rally and sees it as poisoned and absurd, a sad little comment on the politics of today.

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Vance finds himself with some hippies who want him to strip to loosen up, since that’d kill him he declines. The team find each other again with the foursome being chased by the local law until they are rescued by an alien who tells them that all the aliens below are inmates of the asylum world and that the patients chose the 20th century Earth-like environment for themselves. The team return to the ship and Martinex lets them know it’s time to go on their mission.

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Notes: One of Gerber’s commentary stories, showing us how insane our own world can seem with thieves being kept in prison with killers being released, politicians than aren’t much use and a society that lets it all happen. It is a bit preachy, but quite a fun little fill-in. The art is a little better, but not by much. Once again Vance is a dick to Yondu treating him like some 30’s racist sidekick character rather than his equal. I’m looking forward to better issues.

Marvel Presents 4

Marvel Presents 4 was covered dated April 1976 and was on sale on January 1976, sharing the spinner racks with 1st Issue Special #13 (Return of the New Gods), Black Goliath #2, Brave & The Bold #126, Fantastic Four #169, Superman vs The Amazing Spider-Man #1 and X-Men 98.

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Into the Maw of Madness was written by Steve Gerber and the art was by Al Milgrom and opens with the Guardians of the Galaxy waiting by Yondu’s side as he prays for guidance from Anthos, his spiritual deity as to what to do next. As they rest comment on this, in particular Vance being quite dismissive of the belief system of one of his oldest friends, the sky bursts into rain and Yondu takes that as proof that he is to live and carry out this mission with his team.  They return to the Captain America and while the rest of the team stay on the bridge, Vance decides to spend more time wallowing in self pity. He walks into his quarters, which are modelled after his childhood home in Saugerties. As he wonders whether he’ll ever see his own face again, Starhawk comes into Vance’s room to point out that he now lives the dreams of the boy you had this room. In anger, Vance lashes out with his psychokinesis. A image of a woman appears superimposed with Starhawk, which shocks Vance into a more calm state.

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Just after Starhawk leaves, a small craft is spotted ahead of the Captain America, it is brought inside and it’s a four person craft with one occupant, a mercurian teenager called Nikki. Like all of the inhabitants of Mercury, Nikki’s body heat is much higher than human and is vented through the fires which acts as the hair on her head. She, like the original Guardians is the last survivor of the Badoon attack on her world and she fled in the ship to avoid her own death. Then she scrounged ships and planets for food and information. Finding many dead worlds. After being offered food by the Guardians sits in on Starhawk’s mission briefing. Apparently there’s a creature (not Galactus) is devouring life on worlds building towards consuming whole galaxies. Away from this, the children seen in the Guardians of the Galaxy’s guest spots see a great darkness coming and call to Aleta on a screen for help. As this happens, Starhawk becomes fatigued and excuses himself. In his quarters Starhawk collapses into a chair and changes into a woman, revealed to be Aleta.

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Aleta revels in her new physicality and decides to leave a message for Starhawk and seeing Vance who was coming to continue his arguement leaves the message “The Children are in danger.” Then she leaves and Starhawk returns, Vance launches into another tirade and so doesn’t get to the message before the ship is attacked by that which they sought. A creature Yondu calls Karanada “The emptiness that devours.” Starhawk heads out with a recorder to get readings on the creature, but falls to the creatures power. The recorder stops transmitting and Martinex declares that it’s time to leave as per the instruction of Starhawk before he left. As they try, Karanada attacks and the ships systems are damaged and their energy depleted.Marvel Presents #004 - 17++

The ship prepares to jump into hyperspace and as they look back to see if they can rescue Starhawk, they see the recorder. It seems  Starhawk is dead.

Notes: A stronger issue, which suffers in two ways. The first is the constant use of Vance’s conflict with every single member of the crew, which does get old. The second is the art, with thick blocky inking and a very 70’s colour pallette do their best to hamper Milgrom’s pencils. That said, I really like this issue.

 

 

 

 

Marvel Presents 3

Marvel Presents #003 - 00

Marvel Presents 3 Was the first story starring the Guardians of the Galaxy since their introduction in 1969. It was cover dated February 1976 and was released November 1975, sharing the racks with Action Comics #456, Fantastic Four #197, Flash #239, Iron Man #83, Justice League of America #127 and X-Men #97. These and other details are found on the quite frankly excellent Mike’s Amazing World website, which has tons of comic related information and is found at www.dcindexes.com.

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The issue was written by Steve Gerber, who by this point is the Guardians writer and drawn by A Milgrom, who has always done great space opera work. The Guardians at this point consist of Charlie-27, Jupiter born Soldier, Martinex, the crystallin scientist from Pluto, Starhawk, who at this point remains a mystery, Vance Astro, the man from the 20th century, trapped in a foil suit and his friend Yondu, the weapons master of the Centauri system. This story follows on from the Defenders story which ended in Defenders 29, where all of the prisoners on Earth were freed by Doctor Strange. Once this had happened, the opposition to the Badoon went from the few resistance fighters and the Guardians of the Galaxy to an army of 50,000,000, or the population that was left on Earth at that point.

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After a fierce battle in the streets of New Moscow, the Badoon leader on Earth, a creature called Koord tries to run, but is executed by Martinex of the Guardians, with the last of the Brotherhood of the Badoon falling before them and there being no reinforcements coming, the battle is seen to be won. At which point Starhawk flies into space to await the arrival of the Sisterhood of the Badoon.

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The Sisterhood arrive and offer to take custody of the Brotherhood, hereby freeing Earth for good, but the human race after 8 years of genocide and tyranny want blood. Starhawk and the Guardians then take all the Badoon they can and deliver them to the Queen of the Badoon to get them off Earth in a more bloodless fashion. One would think that a happy ending, but no.

 

One by one, the Guardians find that once the war is over, they no longer fit in as they once did. Yondu finds there to be no challenge left and nothing life affirming in the Earth as it is, but after surviving an attack, feels that he has survived for a purpose.

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Martinex finds that a newly freed humanity has relearned predjudice and xenophobia, whilst Charlie-27 finds the absence of respect for others discouraging and soon leaves his new job in construction.

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Vance fares no better. At a caberet, he sees a woman dance and she shows in him, this leaves him despondent and when a fellow patron is less than sensitive, Vance responds by destroying a table with his mind. As he leaves, his thoughts begin to drift to suicidal. Immediately he is beamed aboard the Guardians ship, the Captain America and finds the rest of the team waiting for him. Starhawk has a mission.

 

Notes:

This rather melancholy tale had to be told, there was no way to keep the Badoon as the big bad indefinitely, but once they were dealt with you either have to give them the happy ending or show why there is no happy ending. This issue deals with that quite well and sets up the idea that the Guardians of the Galaxy have a greater purpose ahead of them. Milgrom is a great artist for this issue, showing facial expressions in great detail which not skimping on the action. Gerber adds his own flourish, showing that despite their colourful costumes and strange powers these aren’t your usual superheroes and not really one big happy family. I read this years ago and it led me to want more, which I suppose was the point behind Marvel Presents.

 

 

Defenders 29

Defenders 29 was cover dated November 1975 and was released in August of that year, sharing the racks with 1st Issue Special# 8 (1st Warlord), Amazing Spider-Man #150, Flash #237, Iron Fist #1, Shazam #21 and Thor #241

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This was the final part of the Guardians story arc and was as before written by Steve Gerber, with art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta and the final chapter was titled “Let my planet go.”

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The Guardians captured by the Badoon as well as Nighthawk and about to be executed by firing squad, Vance attacks the Badoon using his psychokinesis, whilst Val frees the three captives. Nighthawk notifies Val of Doctor Strange’s apparent death, whilst his astral form locates Yondu and Hulk. Hulk is teleported to a mountain along with Goozot’s courtesan and set upon by several large mechanical ants. Well as you can imagine, the ants don’t last too long, but after more ants arrive Hulk decides to leave, when he finds himself trapped on the mountain by the TV show host, Hulk simply destroys the mountain and is teleported from the rubble to the studio.

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While all this is going on, Starhawk arrives on an asteroid to see his three children, Tara, Sita and John, he tells them he wants to stay, but after seeing a woman on a view screen he calls Aleta, he declares he has to return to Earth, where the freed heroes are attacking the Badoon.

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In the studio, the host realises that he has yet to put Hulk back in stasis when he is grabbed by him and held up. Just as Hulk is about to strike, Doctor Strange teleports them back to Earth to join the melee while he and Jack Norris teleport from prison camp to prison camp to liberate the human prisoners of the  Badoon.

Just as they are to join the others Starhawk arrives and points out that the Defenders should return to their own time and leave this war to him and the Guardians. He asks them to look into his eyes as he refers to himself as ‘One who knows’. Jack looks and is convinced, as is Strange who returns to the others with Jack and renders all the Badoon in that city unconscious, so another city is taken, this time with no bloodshed.

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The Defenders  are reluctantly returned to their own time by Strange, who tells the Guardians that the war against the Badoon is for them and Starhawk, not the Defenders.

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The Defenders return home and soon start questioning Strange on his motives, but Jack Norris points out that inside Starhawk’s eyes, he saw a fusion of elements that Earth will sorely need, in a millennium from now.

 

Notes:

A fair, if unspectacular end to this mini saga. The scenes with Hulk were enjoyable and the fights were cool and everything, but it feels sort of hollow really. The stuff with Jack Norris at the end was a little navel gazing for me. But it was an important issue. The tide seems to turn against the Badoon and Starhawk joins the team, although no one seems especially thrilled with it. It’s also the first reference to Aleta and the first time he refers to himself as One who knows, both important parts of his character.

The next appearance is in Marvel Presents and is the beginning of a series of stories in which the Guardians are the stars, not just guests and a lot happens as a result.

Stay tuned Guardians fans, things are about to heat up.