Sunday, April 20, 2014

Have An Egg-ceptional Easter, from the Bronze Age Babies!
Happy Easter from the boys of World of Wadley, Mrs. Wadley, and the Doug-half of Bronze Age Babies!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bruce and Selina -- A Love Story: Brave and the Bold 197

The Brave and the Bold #197 (April 1983)
"The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne"
Alan Brennert-Joe Staton/George Freeman

Doug: Here's a book that's long been mentioned by our friend Edo Bosnar. I didn't even realize that I had it until I checked the Comic Book Database one day and found that it was reprinted in the pages of The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told hardcover (c. 1988). So, since I a) have this,  b) dig the Earth-2 versions of Batman and Robin, et al., and c) it's illustrated by Joe Staton, why don't we have a look at the plot and then a discussion?

Doug: Our story is narrated by the protagonist, one Bruce Wayne. But this is a more mature (dare I say Dark Knight Returns-aged?) Wayne, one setting about writing his memoirs. He remarks that he's already written about his origins in Crime Alley, his taking of young Dick Grayson as a partner, and of his camaradarie with the Justice Society of America. Yep, this is the Earth-2 Batman, and the time is the mid-1950s in the U.S.A. and this is a love story. To some extent it's a story about forbidden fruit, redemption, personal demons, and loss. There's a lot going on here!

Doug: We open with a shot of Commissioner James Gordon, now elderly but still in charge of the Gotham City P.D. Wayne muses to himself that he thinks that to some extent he's been Gordon's alter ego -- the adventurer Gordon always wished he could be. Gordon cradles a small green box as he reaches the rooftop from where the Bat-Signal shines. But as the Caped Crusader approaches, he's suddenly obliterated by automatic gunfire! Or was he? Batman lands on the roof, healthy as a horse, and asks Gordon what he has in the box. Batman reaches for it, and remarks that he's pretty sure he already knows what is going on from the residual odor on the roof. A toxin was introduced to Gordon, one that played on his darkest fear -- a world without a Batman. Batman opens the box to reveal a smouldering scarecrow doll. He takes the box and heads to the Batcave for analysis.

Doug: On the way, the Batman thinks about how busy he's been lately, corralling the Joker, Penguin, and Two-Face -- all paroled (say what??) or escaped. And now Professor Crane. He thinks that things were simpler when there were more heroes; now it's just Superman, Wonder Woman, and the "Bat-family" -- he, Robin, and Batwoman. He also thinks about how many of his colleagues have settled down: Clark and Lois, Jay and Joan... and how he's on his way to attend a wedding of an old flame. Once at the wedding, Bruce Wayne greets Linda Page, and they exchange a friendly embrace. They have conversation, and Linda asks Bruce how he'd like to be remembered. She hammers on him a bit about his playboy image, and if that's really the legacy he wishes to leave. We get inside Bruce's head, as he reflects on the creation of that side of his persona, and why it stuck. But as he genuflects, we also see that what really worries him is the fear of being alone -- he wonders what will happen when Alfred retires or passes on, of Dick when he graduates from college and moves away. And that scares Bruce Wayne.

Doug: At the wedding ceremony the guests are suddenly beset with all manner of beasties -- spiders, snakes, and other creepy-crawlies. The Scarecrow makes an appearance, but he didn't bargain on Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Kathy Kane being on the guest list. They all change into their fightin' togs and engage the psychological criminal. But of course Crane has a trick or two up his sleeve, and launches a smoke grenade that goes off right in Batman's face. Batman then sees Robin vanish into thin air. Frantic, he turns to Batwoman for help. She insists that Robin is standing right next to her, but then the Batman sees her vanish as well! Distraught, the Dark Knight flees the scene to seek assistance. But a short time later a call to the Kent household yields nothing. Desperate, he thinks of anyone available who could help him bring down Crane and find his missing partners. Of course, no one is really missing -- it's all the effect of Crane's mind-bending hallucinogens. But Batman settles on one person who could aid him, a former enemy: Catwoman.

Doug: Batman pays a visit to the state pen., where he gets an audience with Selina Kyle. Allegedly she'd suffered from amnesia for a decade, which made her forget her life as the Catwoman. But the Batman was desperate, and even brought the Catwoman costume with him. Selina begrudgingly said she'd help Batman; he'd even offered her the opportunity to be paroled. So off they sped in the Batmobile, on their way to Gotham University to engage Crane. But on their way into the library, the massive concrete lions come to life! The Scarecrow had painted them to resemble stone, then drugged then until they were awakened by a shock collar. Catwoman took exception to that tactic, and was now fully invested in this mission. The pair see a real scarecrow on a rooftop -- a sign from Crane to follow. Selina makes a comment here and there that leads Batman to think that her amnesia claim was bogus. But he swallows it for the sake of finding Crane and his partners.

Doug: Batman's leery of Selina's seeming returned memories -- can he trust her? She thinks that she likes being back in action, but worries that Batman is too obsessed on this case, that he might be erratic. Meeting up in the Great Hall, the find a tape recording from Crane that then plays on several phobias people have. Our pair fights through dangers from fake comets, lightning, and fire. In fact, Batman takes a flaming bolt fired from a crossbow and intended for Catwoman. She is able to destroy the weapon, and then get him to the campus infirmary. There she treats his wound, which requires the removal of his cape and cowl, and of his shirt. Catwoman is shocked when she sees the scars and markings on Batman's back. "Occupational hazard. Fifteen years of fighting will do that to a person." Selina shows genuine concern for her new partner, and then begins to probe his motivations. And Batman tells all -- what happened to him as a child, why he began his crimefighting career. He says to himself that he doesn't know why he answered, but he did.

Doug: We cut to the Scarecrow, firing smoke grenades around campus. He thinks to himself how he's already played on Batman's subconscious fears. These new gasses will play on his most overt phobias, and since they have a staying power in the air, the Dark Knight will be bound to encounter something. Selina tries to reason with Batman as they swing away from the Great Hall. Batman had told her about Gordon's reaction to the box; Selina asks if perhaps Batman's missing partners couldn't also be a figment of his imagination, an illusion. But Batman closes the door on that conversation immediately, and firmly. Selina feels that she's being drawn in to a dark place with this man. As they swing along, suddenly they move through some of the chemicals Crane had left. Selina encounters a fear of heights, Batman of the darkness, and then both of them a fear of open spaces. I'll tell you, if there's one thing I learned from Alan Brennert's script it was all of the different phobias that people have! Dude must have just cracked open an abnormal psychology book and let 'er rip!

Doug: In the library to collect their wits, Selina slips again and Batman knows that she'd lied to him about her amnesia. Nope -- she became the Catwoman on purpose and knew the entire time what she was doing. Selina narrates her story, of a young woman who married a rich but abusive man. Her revenge was to rob him of the only thing he cared about -- his wealth. But the high she got from that stuck, and so did began her criminal ways. She claimed that Selina Kyle faded away and Catwoman became her true identity; Batman concurred, that he lost the person he once had been as well. Then Batman said he didn't know how to get out. Selina turned to him and said, "Don't you?" They embraced. But Batman broke away, and said they needed to find his partners first. Going back outside, they spied another scarecrow. Batman mistook it for the real Crane, and swung up to it. Finding that it was merely another ruse, Batman let his anger and frustration out on the dummy. Selina tried to bring him back, but Batman was suddenly afflicted with ailurophobia - a fear of cats! Shrinking away from Catwoman, he got to the precipice when Selina talked him down. She pleaded with him to let go of his demons, but then he lost control again and began to see her do a fade-out, as Robin and Kathy had done before. Selina knew there was only one way to break this.

Doug: Catwoman removed her mask, releasing the cat. She asked Batman to do the same. He stood and stared. He knew what he should do, but a lifetime of living behind the mask, behind the training, prohibited him. And then he gave in. Batman pulled back his cowl (well, actually it was pretty clumsily drawn, as if he removed a mask) to reveal Bruce Wayne. Selina didn't seem surprised, and the two embraced. Crane's hold on the two of them broken, they kissed and allowed the feelings of years gone by manifest themselves. Later, Batman captured the Scarecrow and dealt with the irrationalities of Crane's hold on him during that adventure. Bruce and Selina married and enjoyed 20 years together -- a fine life. While no mention was made of Helena Wayne, the Huntress, the story had a fitting conclusion with Bruce recalling Selina's life rather than her death, and in hoping that his life would be remembered so well, as well.

Doug: I loved Earth-2. I loved Joe Staton's art on the All-Star Comics revival, and the Huntress. These are treasured stories from the Bronze Age, and although this one was published only a couple of years before the multiple Earths idea came crashing down, it's sort of a fitting ending to those times. Brennert's script is very good, and it's obvious that he "gets" Batman, what makes him tick, and has a fondness for the Batman Family. And Joe Staton -- what a great job of melding his own style to an homage to the 1950s art of Dick Sprang. The faces he drew for Batman were just perfect, as was his rendition of Robin. And I always enjoy Selina in her Golden Age costume the best. This was a nice way to spend 20-25 minutes, and I'm glad I'd been encouraged to read it and actually had it so that I could follow through!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Discuss: Captain America: The Winter Soldier -Spoiled Edition!

Karen: OK, we've waited an appropriate amount of time -now we can blab about all the great stuff in Captain America:The Winter Soldier! To get the ball rolling, I'll share some email exchanges Doug and I had about the movie. Maybe you can build off that, or share your own thoughts about this great Marvel flick!


Doug: Captain America was just wonderful -- what a great superhero movie. As others have remarked, it's in Marvel's top 3 alongside Iron Man and the Avengers. Chris Evans makes me believe that he is Steve Rogers. This screen version of Captain America, although a bit more tolerant of lethal force than I'm used to, is truly how I'd see the character. The increased roles for the Widow and Nick Fury were welcome, and the Falcon was incredibly well-handled. Throw in the Lemurian reference, a Stephen Strange reference, the way they played Arnim Zola and Batroc, Baron Strucker, and three (!) Helicarriers and there was a lot to love.

Karen: I thought you'd love Cap. They really did a fantastic job on the film. I feel like Chris Evans has finally grown into the role -I actually believe him as Cap now. I'm very happy to see that principled character I grew up with up there on the big screen. I really can't fault his performance at all.

Karen: I also was very pleased with the Falcon and how they introduced him. Thankfully he was not an agent of SHIELD! His comics origin would have been too convoluted to use, but I liked what they did, especially the idea that he was counseling returning veterans. And the flying! That was outstanding. His relationship with Cap was perfect too. I loved how they met. And some of his lines -"I do what he does, only slower." -classic.

The whole infiltration of Hydra into SHIELD was a great idea. I've been interested for years in Operation Paperclip and the incorporation of Nazi scientists into our space program and other areas  of government, like post-war intelligence networks, and it's very troubling. It's not that hard to imagine that in a world of super-beings, a group like Hydra could worm its way into a large organization like that. We've been very lukewarm viewers of the Agents of SHIELD show, but I have to say, the way they tied this movie's events into the show was pretty clever. All this does make you wonder how the rest of the films will be affected.

I loved Arnim Zola! Do you see a trend here? Love, love, loved it all!

Doug: I'm a little confused on two things in the first bonus scene, however. Didn't Loki have the scepter with him when he sat on Asgard's throne at the end of the last Thor picture? And, are we to assume that the Maximoff twins will not be mutants but instead genetic constructs of Hydra?

Karen: I thought Loki/Odin was holding Odin's spear at the end of Thor 2, but I'd have to check. As for the twins, I guess this is their workaround for not being able to use the term 'mutant' -they just make them experiments. Did you notice that Pietro's hair was still dark in this scene, but in the pictures from Avengers: Age of Ultron, it is turning white? Maybe as he uses his powers, it will turn white? Also, it seems that perhaps Wanda's powers may be more telekinetic than probability-altering? Perhaps that would be easier for an audience to understand?

Doug: I missed the whole Crossbones thing, but then I have no experience with the character. Was he the main Hydra soldier, that was with Cap in the initial scene and then was the main guy in the control room scene when Agent 13 put a gun to his head?  Also, when Fury was being attacked by the Washington, DC police, did I hear his "Jarvis" say that there were no humans in range? So were they all LMDs?

Karen: Yes, you got it. Brock Rumlow =Crossbones. It will be interesting to see if they put him in his mask. He could be interpreted as  a Bane rip-off by some.

I didn't pick up on the LMD comment. I'll have to listen for that when I see the movie again! (NOTE -On my second viewing, it sounds to me like the AI says "No units in the area," referring to the Metro police).

I thought the scene with Peggy was unnecessary. It didn't actually do anything for the story. They should have either cut it, or built upon it. The only mis-step in the movie, in my opinion. 

Doug: See, I thought the Peggy scene served to cement Cap's "man out of time" element. Looking at how young she was, and how beautiful she was in the first film, it did (for me) hammer home the point that Cap and Bucky would be 95 years old! So for me it worked, because it would later bring the incredulity to Cap when he saw the Winter Soldier unmasked. Of course, at the end of the film we got to see Bucky in a cryogenic chamber in that KGB folder. 

Karen: Don't get me wrong, I like Peggy a lot, and would like to see more of her, but I felt that scene needed more follow up -it felt sort of thrown in there.

Speaking of, and I need to research this -- didn't the KGB go away when the Soviet Union fell in 1990? If so, it would be difficult for the Widow to be KGB trained, as she'd have been 6 years old.

Karen: I asked the same thing about the Widow to my husband, who just shrugged it off, after the film. We're getting pretty far away from the Soviet era  now. I asked also why the Winter Soldier had the red star on his shoulder if he'd been working for Hydra all these years -or was it  Hydra within the KGB? It is a little confusing but I guess it doesn't prevent me from enjoying the movie.

And how about Cap taking down a whole jet with just his shield? Wasn't that an incredible scene? It gets across the point that he deserves to be a part of the Big Three. That to me felt very much like comic book action.

Doug: So there you have it -- some thoughts from your hosts to get things rolling today. Have at it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Discuss: The Conan the Barbarian Movies, Plus X-Men DoFP Clip

Doug: Of course Conan came up in Karen's Arnold Schwarzenegger post last week. There was a little sidebar that developed, so today let's delve into it further. Speak, then if you will, of the handful of depictions of the future King of Aquilonia on celluloid, and then in larger form as to whether or not faithfulness to the print media detracts from your enjoyment of these films. And hey, if Tarzan creeps stealthily into the conversation that would be OK for the latter discussion.

Doug: I saw this yesterday and thought I'd bring it over. Special effects alone, this looks pretty cool!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Avengers Firsts: Hawkeye

Tales of Suspense #57 (September 1964)(cover by Don Heck)
"Hawkeye, the Marksman!"
Stan Lee-Don Heck

NOTE: Whenever I try to convert art from one of the Gitcorp dvd-roms to .jpg files, the full-page images frequently come out distorted. Apologies from the start for our less than stellar outcomes today on the visuals! -- Doug

Doug: Welcome to the BAB, post-"Secret Empire"! I think everyone got some degree of satisfaction out of our long tour through that pivotal tale in the life of Captain America. And since Cap always puts most of us in an Avengering mood, Karen and I thought it would be cool to finish the month of April with our own "Marvel Firsts" geared toward the Kooky Quartet era of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes". Today we're obviously kicking things off with everyone's favorite loud-mouthed bowslinger. Next week we'll check in on the debut of the Maximoff twins (on display... oh wait -- that's for Wednesday's FULLY SPOILED Captain America post!), and then we'll conclude with a minor (haha -- is anything minor when the Son of Zeus is involved?) tussle between Thor and Hercules! So buckle in -- there's quite a bit of Silver Age fun winging your way over the next few weeks.

Karen: We probably haven't spent enough time on the Silver Age, really. Sure, we're the Bronze Age Babies, but the Silver Age is our foundation!

Doug: You have my agreement. I have really had a blast the times I've reviewed some of the Silver Age Avengers that are my favorites, and of course we could hardly contain ourselves when we both took a look at Silver Surfer #4. I enjoyed this on my first read a few weeks ago, as I'm not sure I'd ever read the entire story before! Wow -- does this take us back to a simpler time in Marvel history, when each hero's Achilles heel still stood out and influenced the stories month-to-month and individual personalities were still being honed by the creators. Oh, and the soap opera aspect... this one, as they say, has it all!

Karen: You got it right when you said that the "personalities were still being honed by the creators." It was only 1964 after all, for this tale and next week's Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch debut. The characters, as we know them, were not quite there yet.

Doug: Not quite. But when we get to Hercules... Boy, did Stan and Jack get it right the first time with the Lion of Olympus! So we open at one of Tony Stark's factories, where Iron Man saves one of Stark's laborers from a quite precarious situation. But while Iron Man settles everyone down and receives thanks from the assemblage of workers, Happy Hogan comes by and asks for a minute alone with Iron Man. The Golden Avenger fears that something is wrong elsewhere, but Happy tells him that he only wants a favor: since Iron Man is so close to Mr. Stark, couldn't Iron Man ask Mr. Stark to help him out in getting a date with Pepper Potts. We quickly scene shift to Stark's office where he puts his regular clothes over his chestplate. You knew I wasn't going to last long in evading the "rubber mask" conundrum we BABers always complain about. C'mon -- the chestplate must have some serious rigidity to it -- does Stan Lee mean to tell me that no one ever playfully gave him a punch to the midsection? And what of the light on Iron Man's chest? Not exactly a smooth contour on that thing, either. But anyway... I suppose it's not quite as bad as Cap's shield "hidden" under his shirt.

Karen: I'm struck by how un-armorlike Iron Man's suit looks! It's just so soft and round, like the Mego doll. But yes, the idea of a man wearing an iron breastplate under his shirt going undetected seems ludicrous, just like carrying around said armor in a briefcase, but it was a different age.

Doug: I never did wrap my mind around that whole flexible armor deal as a child. And then when Nova came out, we were told that his helmet became like tissue paper when removed from his head. Yeah, whatever.

Doug: So Tony, being loyal to Happy, approaches Pepper about "a date". Well, Stupid, what did you think she was going to hear? And poor Happy, standing just off to the side while Pepper leaps into Stark's surprised arms. Happy sort of tucks his tail and leaves the room, while Stark has to quickly figure out an idea for a date he really doesn't want to go on. Well, maybe I should say a date he shouldn't go on. Of course we're subjected to the Silver Age trope of "I love the girl, but I could never... (fill in the blank depending on the hero)". Heck yes, Stark wants to pursue Pepper, but with the heart thing, the Iron Man thing, the fact that Happy also loves her thing. You know, superheroing stinks -- really it does. So Tony takes Pepper to the boardwalk, mostly in hopes that she'll think he's a schmuck and he won't have to worry about their love for each other becoming openly known. While checking out the various attractions, they pass by a booth wherein toils Hawkeye, the World's Greatest Marksman. However, trouble's brewing elsewhere on one of the rides.

Karen: This whole sequence is so bizarre - such a contrived situation. Stark loves her, but has to keep her away, and he wants to drive her towards Happy, so he takes her on a terrible date... it's weird.

Doug: I was glad in the films when they just said to heck with it and it was pretty obvious that Pepper and Tony were lovers. Maybe angst doesn't play in the 21st century? Iron Man makes short work of the near-catastrophe at the "flying pinwheel" ride, and of course the assemblage of carnival goers cheers widely. And in the first example of a character trait we'll see run through those early appearances in the Avengers, Hawkeye watches from afar, feeling quite inferior. He's actually pretty put out that folks dropped what they were doing to watch Shellhead in action. So Hawkeye (no Clint Barton in this story, and not for a long time if memory serves) stalks off to his workshop where he sets about crafting some trick arrows and designing a costume. And I'll declare, he designs a keeper -- it's one of the Marvel Comics costumes that's stood the test of time with only minor alterations here and there.

Karen: Did the situation with Iron Man inside the spokes of the pinwheel remind you at all of the Avengers film, with Iron Man inside the helicarrier's rotor? It's a pretty slim impetus for Hawkeye's origin -pure envy. But I guess it's as good as any, and certainly that aspect of his personality -the underdog always trying to prove himself -has been consistent. What made me chuckle a bit was some of Hawkeye's dialog here, where he says stuff such as, "Let Iron Man and every costumed adventurer look to his laurels! For Hawkeye is about to make them all look sick!" and "I feel as though the destiny of the entire city below me is in my powerful gloved hands!" Doesn't quite sound like the bowslinger we know, does it? 

Doug: The new-and-improved Hawkeye then sets out to reinforce his belief that he's pretty darned good. It's also for our benefit, so we see just what this cat can do. Hawk fires off an arrow with a rope for swinging, which he uses to Spidey-it around town. But very soon he comes across a robbery in progress. Playing hero, Hawkeye uses a conventional arrow to pin the robber's jacket to a phone pole. But the creep's able to wriggle free, and beats it on foot. Hawkeye drops to the ground to inspect the guy's booty (haha - as Winwood sang, when you see a chance, take it) and finds that the heist had included a whole bunch of precious gemstones. But as fate would have it, two cops on a beat happen upon the scene and deduce -- you guessed it -- that Hawkeye is the thief. But since he's not, now he starts running. And he about gets hit, because he runs right out in front of a car driven by -- Madame Natasha, the Black Widow!

Karen: It would be easy to forget that Madame Natasha had started out as a brunette. And of course, she was not a costumed character yet, just a femme fatale Soviet spy. But she was pretty potent in that role. But what a happy coincidence, huh, she's just driving by when this all goes down?

Doug: Natasha, sans costume as you stated, takes Hawkeye to her secret lair. Of course we know the character Clint Barton will become, and his weaker attributes are on full display here -- namely, the fact that he can't resist a pretty skirt! The Widow reads this right away and exploits Hawkeye's infatuation. She tells him that she has an enemy she'd like defeated -- the Invincible Iron Man! But, she cautions, his employer Tony Stark must not be harmed. Hawkeye takes both halves of the command as a challenge, and sets his mind toward winning the heart of his new Russian flame. Meanwhile, we visit Stark in his factory lab, all ablaze with passion for Pepper Potts. Stark's so smitten by her, he about walks out of his lab half-dressed in his armor! It's unclear where the next few panels take place -- in the firm's offices, or perhaps at Pepper's place? Anyway, Happy is there and he's mustered his courage to ask Pepper for a date. Stark walks in, and Pepper decides to play him. Right when Happy feels he's about to get rejected again, Pepper agrees to a date! Stark takes it in stride... this is one odd love triangle here.

Karen: I never read a lot of Tales of Suspense or early Iron Man issues to know if Stark ever really had a relationship with Pepper. I think by the time I started reading it, she was already with Happy. But the whole thing just seems very uncomfortable.

Doug: All of the dodging of potential significant others that played out in most superhero mags really makes you appreciate Barry Allen and Iris West, doesn't it? At least Barry was trying. But I'm no Flash fan or reader, so don't quote me on that.

Doug: Outside of Stark's factory Hawkeye begins his assault. He launches a suction-tipped arrow across a divide, then cables to the building. Scaling the wall, he avoids guards and a vehicle in the process. Now ready to set off his full attack, he fires a blast arrow that creates an explosion. Security comes running, but outpacing them is the Golden Avenger. Hawkeye waits in the shadows, readying the perfect shot to take out his target. This scene is well-written by Stan Lee, and quite formative. Hawkeye had perfected arrows tipped with various chemicals, and once Iron Man was in range he was pelted with several projectiles that released a solution that caused I.M.'s armor to... rust! OK, seriously? You don't think Stark would have taken his get-up to the local Ziebart dealer? Apparently not, because he starts to go all Tin Man on us. He scrambles for a hiding place, finding one in the rafters. He peels off the affected  pieces, and thinks that he must get to his extra armors, stashed around the factory grounds (I got a real Norman Osborn vibe out of this).

Karen: It does seem rather silly now to see Iron Man defeated by rust -particularly seeing him crawling around with bare arms and legs! All of the Marvel characters seemed far more human, far more fallible in these early years. In this issue, Hawkeye is a convincing challenge for Iron Man, but as the years went on, the gap in their power levels would expand dramatically. I doubt anyone today would consider Hawkeye to be in Iron Man's league.

Doug: Hawkeye comes across the discarded pieces of Iron Man's armor and figures that anyone able to discern their properties could become quite powerful himself. So as he packs up his "finders-keepers", Stark makes it to a spare attache' case. He quickly replaces the damaged segments of his armor. However, he's missing a right boot; without that, he figures he's no match for Hawkeye without full mobility. Remembering that he'd needed to repair it in another part of the factory, but had to hide it at the time, Stark finally gets himself together and is ready to face the marksman. Trouble now is, Hawkeye's beaten it out of Dodge. So Shellhead takes to the air in pursuit. It doesn't take long before he finds a lone car, speeding in the direction away from the factory. Now I'm no Sherlock Holmes, and I'll bet Tony Stark isn't either. I mean, would you just assume that because the car is doing what you think Hawkeye's car would be doing that it would be OK to open fire on it? Well, Iron Man does just that. Hawkeye was indeed in it, and emerges from the crash ready for battle. But this time Iron Man has the advantage.

Karen: He really blows the crap out of that car!
Doug: Aye, that he does! And then... and then the story get ridiculous. Iron Man and Hawkeye tussle in an open area near some docks. Hawkeye launches an arrow that releases a net of nylon strands, but Iron Man is able to break loose before it constricts. Hawkeye's maneuvered onto a pier. Now I don't know how many of you have been by a river/lake/pond/ocean with a pier. But if you haven't, I have to tell you, kids -- there isn't any fulcrum in the set-up! But you wouldn't know that here, as Iron Man rises high in the sky, only to plummet like a missile onto the end of the pier opposite his nemesis. Yup -- Hawkeye is launched up and off the pier as if he'd been on a see saw. And then... it gets more ridiculous. Hawkeye lands on a tall pile, clinging to it with both arms and both legs. Iron Man swoops in and grabs the top of the pile... and pulls it like you'd pull a toy catapult -- whiplashing our archer right off and far away! Iron Man follows him and pulls him out of the drink, unconscious.

Karen: The action here was cartoonlike. I almost wonder if they were running out of space and had to wrap the fight up quickly.

Doug: To be honest, I had it set in my mind that this was a split book, so I felt like there were at least two codas to the action! Watching from afar was the Black Widow, who'd arrived by boat to pick up Hawkeye after his victory. But unbeknownst to her, a set of circumstances was shaping up that would prove the endgame here. Iron Man moved away from his unconscious charge, and as he walked away, Hawkeye reached into his arsenal and pulled out the head of the "demolition arrow" -- a little warhead he'd cooked up with Natasha's help. Righting himself, Hawkeye let 'er rip. But he hadn't calculated the power of Iron Man's armor -- and that it would deflect the arrow straight toward the Widow. Knocked unconscious by the blow. Now crazed with fear, Hawkeye scoops up his would-be lover and makes tracks for her vessel. Iron Man, still staggered from the force of the demolition arrow, tries to follow. However, he pulls back immediately as an airplane taking off from nearby LaGuardia Airport buzzes him. Hawkeye gets away.

Karen: I like the way Heck drew the sequence with Hawkeye getting up and then firing the arrow at Iron Man. That had a real sense of suspense and excitement. The melodrama here could be cut with a knife, as Hawkeye professes that Natasha is the only one he's ever loved -he just met her!

Doug: What a wonderful slice of early Marvel Universe life this one is, huh? It has all the hallmarks of a Stan Lee Silver Age yarn, what with the romantic angst, the Communist threat, an anti-hero, and some cool tech. And this is the Don Heck that I like, before rigor mortis hit his figurework. I thought Hawkeye appeared pretty much fully-formed, with no trouble at all recognizing him from his later appearances as a member of Cap's Kooky Quartet. Solid effort all the way around, here.

Karen: I don't think Hawkeye was exhibiting his smart-aleck ways yet, but his rebel personality was definitely in place. You can tell they are still figuring out things at this stage, but it's still a lot of fun to see the Marvel Universe taking shape.

Doug: Bonus! This comic book was one of the lucky ones that was adapted (converted?) into an episode of the 1966 series Marvel Super-Heroes. So, if you're so inclined, you can "watch along" and then come back for a re-read of our review! Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

True or False: Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Greatest Action Movie Hero of All Time

Karen: The other day I read a fun and engaging article on by Bill Simmons called "The Action Hero Championship Belt." Simmons sets up some rules and then goes through chronologically from 1968 (when Steve McQueen's Bullitt premiered) and selects the top action hero for a particular time period. All the usual suspects are there -Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis -but Arnold Schwarzenegger comes away with more years on top than anyone else. Looking back, I'd say that's about right too. He was a believable butt-kicker in every role he played. 

Here are Simmons' rules, so you can answer today's question:

Rule No. 1: Over everything else, I need to believe our hero can kick everyone’s ass, in any conceivable situation, at any given time. And he needs to believe this, too.

Rule No. 2: During our hero’s apex, I would have seen his action movie no matter what the plot was, and no matter how lukewarm the reviews were.

Rule No. 3: The body of work from a particular run matters more than a single movie.

Karen: Based on this criteria, and whatever else you care to use, what do you say -is Arnold the Man?

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