Monday, July 13, 2015

Okay Axis - It's Clobberin' Time!


One upon a time, when comics were more fun, there were splendid annual offerings which for a few more pennies (later nickels, dimes, and sadly even quarters) gave the reader an extra blast of excitement from their regular favorites. These were special events, king-size and once a year, something to look forward to and savor when they arrived. Among those wonderful annuals in 1976 were a two-part story and then some which took the Fantastic Four back into time to stifle the Third Reich from taking over the entire world.

Jack "King"  Kirby and "Joltin'"Joe Sinnott
It began in Fantastic Four Annual #11 by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Sam Grainger. It seems that a sample of vibranium Reed had laying around was accidentally transported back into time, specifically the early years of World War II and that has caused time to change going forward with images of Nazis storming the streets of New York and Cleveland and more. The team is given a clue that there are big problems when the enigmatic and ever silent Watcher appears and glares at them until they take matters into their hands and using a replica of Doc Doom's infamous time machine head off back to 1942 to fix things up. They land smack dab into a strategy meeting of The Invaders and as is the wont when Marvel heroes first meet, they spend a few pages punching each other. Then cooler heads prevail and they work together to invade a German controlled French castle which has come to the attention of the Allies. The two teams work together to invade (properly enough) and find the hooded menace Baron Zemo in control. Cap ends up knocking over a vat of his Compound X and Zemo's hood is bonded to him for the rest of his days. The Nazis are using the vibranium to help control their rockets and one such rocket gets loose but the Thing is aboard and causes it to strike the castle. Seemingly the threat is over and the Fab 4 return to 1976 but then discover that only half the vibranium has been recovered. Reed Richards seems satisfied but Ben Grimm is curious.

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
His curiosity is sated when in the Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger, the Watcher returns and is frowning still. Ben knows he has to head back again to 1942 and this time ends up in the United States alongside the Liberty Legion as they fend off a series of attacks on the homeland by the high-flying Skyshark, Master Man, and U-Man. The trio are stealing various high-tech elements and are confronted by various sub-teams of Legionnaires but they are only partially successful. The equipment they steal is combined by the Brain Drain (no one and no thing stays dead  in the Marvel Universe) to make a terrifying flying swastika which attacks the heart of New York City. The Thing who has been waiting for the Legion to return sees the attack and uses a flagpole to launch himself to the defense of the Big Apple.


The story slithers beyond the confines of the annual and continues in the twentieth issue of Marvel Two-in-One (again by the Roy,Sal, and Sammy team) as the Thing and the Legion join forces to foil the plot. Master Man and U-Man are ultimately defeated, but Skyshark and Brain Drain escape. (It's worth noting that Brain Drain is just a container with a brain and two eyes minus a human form this time out.) The Thing recovers the missing half of the vibranium and returns home to 1976 just in time to mystify his FF teammates. The Watcher disappears, seemingly pleased that the time stream has been fixed, for now.


Based on the plot there was little reason this story needed one more issue to end. It's a bonus sure, but the MTIO annual is really quite sumptuous enough for the story told here and Roy just seems sloppy not to have wrapped it up. That said, it's still a whopper of a tale, an unapologetic actioner with the Liberty Legion fully on display beating the dickens out of a few foes the Invaders had a rough time with individually.


Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia
One of the oddities of these issues for anyone not already keyed to the continuity of the time is the fact Ben Grimm is in his human mode and wearing a Thing-armor which replicates his classic look and gives him massive strength. It's weird to see him take off his head from time to time as the story develops. 

All three issues sport outstanding Jack Kirby covers with the two annual covers showcasing the inks of Joe Sinnott, one of the exceedingly rare times these two worked together on an Fab 4 image after Kirby left for DC years before.  The magic is clearly still evident in this wonderful combination.


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5 comments:

  1. I though I had all the FF annuals but I dont remember this one. I'll have to check and see if I have it.

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    1. It's worth looking for. I've read a number of annuals from 1976 for this month's post and I had not realized how strong that year was for annuals.

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  2. I know I don't have that Annual - and I want it! However, the book looks interesting. Is it recent, Rip, and is it a hardback or softcover?

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    1. The one pictured is hardback, but the version I own is paperback. It's a great volume with the Liberty Legion stories above as well as the the stories from Invaders and Marvel Presents which introduced the team.

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  3. Now them's comicbooks! Fantastic art, action-packed stories that move at the speed of light...sigh! And yeah, 76 had a plethora of awesome annuals! Marvelous post!!

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