Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Live Kree Or Die - Out Of The Negative Zone!

It's not too much to say that the seventeenth issue of Captain Marvel is one of the most significant single issues in the company's entire history. In it we have the significant transformation of Captain Marvel into the hero who would finally catch a little fire with fans and make a most significant impact when he died most graciously and  humbly some years later.

Roy Thomas steps in to resume his duties as scripter of the series. There have been a host of writers on this series beginning with Stan Lee himself, followed by Roy, and then came Arnold Drake, Gary Friedrich, and finally Archie Goodwin. Thomas will take the reins and transform the Kree Captain into a new kind of hero but one with a recognizable pedigree. To show that Roy brings aboard the veteran artist and famed raconteur Gil "Sugar Lips" Kane to draw the book.

Kane made his rep with DC on titles like Green Lantern and The Atom. Clearly Roy is a proven lover of the Golden Age of comics and to that end he plays on the familiarity of the name "Captain Marvel" to have the Kree version cleave more closely in some high-tech ways to the original "Big Red Cheese" produced by Fawcett so many years before. And it all begins with Rick Jones.

Rick Jones was Marvel's all-purpose sidekick. He'd been the boy wonder who helped the Hulk adjust to the world. He later was instrumental in getting the Avengers to assemble for the first time and later still did a stint as a stand in for Bucky with Captain America. It's following that last turn that we find Rick as this story opens. Unknown to Rick, Cap has been captured by the Red Skull and using the Cosmic Cube, the Skull has exchanged bodies with the Living Legend.

So when Rick runs across Cap and gets a swift and brutal rebuff he takes it to heart and takes off to find a new path. That path leads him to a remote area where Captain Mar-Vell, stranded in the Negative Zone is able to use a mysterious Cap doppleganger to lure Rick into a long lost Kree outposts (the Kree really misplace a lot of these it appears).

There Rick finds the Nega-Bands and putting them and giving them a distinctive "Ktang!" he changes places with Captain Marvel who is able to escape the confines of the Negative Zone, at least for a short time. Cap goes to confront Yon-Rogg but is tricked by an explosive duplicate of Carold Danvers. He Nega-bands Rick back onto the Earth as the now bonded team continue their search for the devious and  deadly Kree Colonel.

In the next issue of Captain Marvel they find him. Yon-Rogg uses the equipment in the Kree outpost to animate the Mandroid and uses it to attack Mar-Vell. But first Rick stops off to begin his singing career in a local eatery.

Soon though, in a battle which rages throughout the issue and takes two artists (John Buscema fills in for Gil Kane on the last part) Mar-Vell is at long last able to exact his ultimate vengeance on Yon-Rogg who he holds responsible for the death of Una and who has bedeviled him since the very beginning of the series.

Mar-Vell saves Carol Danvers but when he changes back to Rick Jones the weariness causes him to collapse.

After recovering in the nineteenth (and seemingly final issue) of the series Rick changes with Captain Marvel again and they drop Carol off to safety and begin a new career. Rick soon finds a comfortable apartment in a sleek new complex though its owner and operator, one Cornelius Webb seems more than a might suspicious. At first things are great and the complex filled with all sorts of different people get along great. But a series of frightening hallucinations and illusions soon make the people fearful of each other. It turns out that Webb is conducting a vicious experiment and looking to turn the people against one another, proving his dour opinion of human nature. But the heroism of Rick and Captain Marvel as well as that of an old man named Weiss, a Holocaust survivor proves him wrong though at a terrible cost.

And that my friends is that. The series, never a great seller finally ends after more changes than one could easily count in a potent but ultimately unsuccessful run.

But it's not over as next time we meet the Hulk and the Avengers as Captain Marvel comes back.

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