Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Celestial Madonna - Kang War II

It's called "Kang War II" and it begins immediately after the Avengers had seemingly dispatched the time-stomping Kang in the previous issue. Kang will prove relentless in the coming months. The saga of the
Celestial Madonna takes a breather as the Avengers enjoy the scenic sights of Vietnam in issue #130. This was a tricky setting for the story, the United States long and infamous war there making things very touchy for all involved. What Steve Englehart came up with was a Commie variation of the Assemblers, sort of.

He puts Titanium Man, Crimson Dynamo and Radioactive Man together to create a team of "heroes" who call themselves the "Titanic Three" and who seemingly fought for the people and not necessarily the Communist governments who controlled them. But things go awry when a vicious thief named Slasher pits the two teams against one another. It gets cleared up but not until a few blows are exchanged.

Meanwhile in The Avengers #131 Kang has hooked up with Immortus and after taking control of Limbo and throwing Immortus into lock up next to Rama Tut, Kang gathers up an impressive gang of dead warriors from past Marvel epics to take on the Avengers in the halls of the Limbo castle of Immortus. Among the "Legion of the Unliving" are Frankenstein's Monster, The original Human Torch, Midnight (who had battled Shang-Chi), Baron Zemo, Wonder Man, and The Ghost (from the Silver Surfer's adventures). 

In the next issue the undead then proceed under Kang's orders (they seem to have no choice though as time passes they become less under his influence) to battle the Avengers. We follow the Avengers through the myriad hallways of Limbo and see many a clash. The Frankenstein's Monster seems to be beyond Kang's grasp from the get-go, owing I guess to his peculiar undead state and the Human Torch (not being human after all) seems likewise to slip quickly from Kang's influence. But drawn by Sal Buscema and Joe Staton, the comic looks great.

The battle winds up in the third Giant-Size Avengers as the Legion are dispatched or turn against Kang. Midnight gets his butt kicked by Mantis. Baron Zemo gets on everyone's nerves and gets turned into a puddle of goo. The Ghost has already blinked out when he attacked the Vision. Eventually it all winds down and Kang takes a powder into the time stream when Thor seems about the drop the hammer on him, literally. Along the way the Vision in particular has a rough time, nearly losing one of his arms and having to confront both Wonder Man and the Human Torch. Both of these characters as we now know play an important part in his origin. It is that origin which seems to be set up by this encounter and which will play out in coming issues of the series. Rama Tut is released and Immortus hints at some connections we'd all by this time already suspected.

Roy Thomas steps in to help Englehart with the scripting during this period. The pressure of producing the regular series and the Giant-Size stories which were running in continuity (not something the other Giant-Size series were attempting to do) made for some exciting stuff, but the pressure on production was apparent. Aside from the sturdy Buscema-Staton team (which would soon give way) Dave Cockrum's run on the Giant-Size series was spotty at best with indifferent inking by the reliable but misused Joe Giella. While the breakneck pacing of the series made it hum right along, the obvious breakdowns in art production keep this one from becoming a true masterpiece.

Here are some covers featuring some debuts of the "Legion of the Unliving". This will prove to be a popular notion and several Legions will be dug up of the ensuing decades.

The Not-So-Human Torch, here with his pal Toro and nemesis Namor.
Cap's top villain on his return, Baron Zemo with his Masters of Evil.
Wonder Man has been a sturdy hero, but he was just another baddie when he debuted.
Loved the Ghost in the Surfer, Mephisto's reincarnation of the Lost Dutchman.
Midnight was one of Shang-Chi's first opponents and a most memorable one.
A Monster for the ages, Frankenstein's Creature doesn't know how to die.
We wrap up this particular Kang War tomorrow! Same Kang-time, same Kang-channel!

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  1. Ah some classic Bronze Age marvel, right in my wheelhouse

  2. I really don't have time to read this... You're killing me, Rip!

    The first issue of the Avengers that I clearly remember buying myself was #130. I had a smattering of issues from about the year prior, but don't have clear memories of how I acquired them. So the Celestial Madonna storyline, along with the three Giant-Size issues, have a real sentimental place for me. Thanks for stirring up these great memories!


    1. It's an exquisite agony isn't it! I love when a story captures me and I'm whisked away like I have been in these stories. They thrilled me at the time (Hawkeye returning, the rich back stories unfolding with copious guest stars, the romance of Wanda and Vision coming to fruition, and Kang...I love Kang). I try to plan ahead sometimes on this blog and I find that my best laid plans often go awry.

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