Monday, September 19, 2016

The Man Who Stole Tomorrow!

Published in 1979 The Man Who Stole Tomorrow by David Michelinie was this tenth entry in the "Marvel Novel Series" pits the Assemblers against their arch-nemesis Kang the Conqueror, or you'd think that from the very handsome cover by Dave Cockrum. But the story is a much different affair than you'd expect given the encounters the team had had with the Conqueror in many a previous yarn. Massive spoilers follow.

John Byrne
It begins with a day at the mansion where assembled are Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, The Vision, The Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and the Beast. They are having just another day save for some remarkably intense interactions between the ill-tempered Pietro and the Vision. The cause of course is Wanda, about whom Pietro feels protective and clearly more than a bit jealous of her husband. Into this world comes a peculiarly dressed old man who clutches a jeweled necklace. He conjurs "Bother Bear", a strange creature which is clearly not a bear but some sort of other kind of powerful creature, one so powerful that it dispatches the Avengers with relative ease. Then Captain America disappears, apparently kidnapped.

Jack Kirby and Dan Adkins
It turns out the old man is the Shaman of the Eskimo tribe who first fished out Steve Rogers many years before and who has searched for his lost "god" since the Sub-Mariner appeared and cast the icon into the sea. We know that it was Cap and he thawed to become an important member of the Avengers and symbol to the world, but the Shaman named Aningan Kenojuak still imagines his "god" the loss there of was the cause of the woes his village suffered since. He's been on quest to regain his station and had recently come into some power and specific intel which enabled him to do just that.

(This Spidey Super Stories cover has nothing to do with the novel. But the idea that a megalomaniac hearkening for another time might take control of the White House seems especially poignant these days.)
The Avengers pursue  two avenues of investigation, one a mention of a creature with winged feet which leads them to Prince Namor of Atlantis and the other a few key words which suggest that the Arctic will be a place they need to go. Thor and the Vision find Namor and he joins them as the whole team confronts Kenojuak who has again frozen Cap in a block of something other than ice. It turns out his necklace is actually bizarre technology and he himself has been used as a dupe in a gambit against the Avengers themselves by the one he calls the "Blue Totem".

"The Blue Totem" of course is Kang the Conqueror and the Avengers use Thor's hammer's powers to journey to the future of 3900 A.D. to find him. The find a world depopulated as the mass of humanity has spread across the solar system, and the Earth itself converted into a defacto amusement park. Underneath a glowing sign is Kang who behaves quite unusually, even for him. The Avengers penetrate his fortress and confront the Conqueror who eventually reveals his plan to overwhelm particular time periods with a myriad of intruders from across the ages, both human and animal to the point that to regain some measure of order those time periods capitulate to his control.

The Avengers confront him and it is the devious nature of the Beast who is able to take control of Kang's machinery and who ends up sending the Conqueror into seventeen different time periods at once, which results in his splitting apart before their eyes. Then they return home.

Art Adams
This story starts out as a real hummer then sort of fizzles. The idea of following up on the events of The Avengers #4 and the tribe which lost its "god" is fascinating. And the first half of the novel follows this tale pretty well, then when we switch gears and it becomes a time travel story looking at a possible future with Kang it loses its way. One problem is the future presented seems unlike any we've encountered with Kang before but beyond that Kang himself seems very different. His supreme egotistical banter seems to have been replaced by a satirical smirk, a tone not fit for one who holds himself in such high regard.  There is also a feeling of the Avengers just wrapping it up as they fumble around until the end of the page count. If somehow the first half of the story had been allowed to keep playing a key in the latter part then I think we might have a novel here with more unity and more impact on the memories of Marvel fans.

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