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.
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.
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.
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.++
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.