Amazing Adventures #5 (March, 1971)

As I wrote in this space back in May, in 1970 my younger self bought the first two issues of Marvel Comics’ new double-feature title Amazing Adventures upon their release — but then skipped the next two.  Half a century later, I can’t recall what my decision-making process was (and the vagaries of distribution being what they were at the time, it’s entirely possible that I never saw AA #3 and/or #4 on the stands).  But I’d guess that I simply wasn’t all that crazy about what I’d found in #1 and #2.  Even though I liked the Inhumans a whole lot, and was an admirer of Jack Kirby’s art (I was also a fan of his plotting, of course, if only unconsciously, since I didn’t yet comprehend the extent of the King’s creative contributions to his collaborations with Marvel editor/scripter Stan Lee), the two-part tale that inaugurated the Inhumans feature, written as well as drawn by Kirby, didn’t feel like essential work.  At the time he produced these stories, Kirby was on the verge of unleashing a tremendous amount of pent-up creativity with his “Fourth World” project for DC; but, as with a lot of his other material for Marvel at the end of his monumental ’60s tenure at the publisher, his heart didn’t really seem to be in this stuff.

As for the title’s second feature, the Black Widow — she was more of an unknown quantity for me, anyway.  Besides the obvious fact that this was her first solo strip, I had at this point read very few of her earlier appearances in Avengers and elsewhere, and had little to no investment in the character.  Despite the reliably fine draftsmanship of John Buscema on her first two installments (with John Verpoorten inking Buscema’s pencils), I didn’t find enough there to hook me and bring me back. 

With issue #5, however, came creative changes in both features which significantly increased the title’s appeal for me  — although these changes weren’t at all obvious from the cover, which had been produced by the same team of Buscema and Verpoorten who’d done the art for the first two Black Widow strips.  I’m guessing that I probably clued in to what was happening in Amazing Adventures courtesy of this Mighty Marvel Checklist item, which appeared throughout Marvel’s line in December, 1970:

However, if I hadn’t yet seen that item by the time AA #5 showed up on the spinner racks, then I figure I must have picked the comic up in the store and flipped to the first page:

…and that would have sold me, right then and there.  Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, and Tom Palmer — the same trio that had given us a short but memorable run on X-Men in 1969 — reunited on Marvel’s other team of set-apart super-humans created years earlier by Kirby and Lee?  Sign me up, please.

I’m not sure that young comics fans of the present era, who’ve inherited a multi-varied stylistic landscape shaped by several generations’ worth of artists reacting to the respective influences of Jack Kirby and Neal Adams (if sometimes at a second or even a third remove), will ever be able to fully appreciate the literal aesthetic shock experienced by readers in 1969 or 1970, of seeing characters who’d been designed by Kirby — whose style leaned heavily towards the exaggerated and expressionistic — rendered for the first time by the much more illustrative and photorealistically-inclined Adams.  Not that one artist’s approach was superior to the other’s — I’ve never been of the opinion that “more realistic” equates to “better” in comic-book art, or vice versa — but the stark differences in how these two giants separately achieved their levels of excellence could, and still does, generate its own special delight when a specific work allows for direct comparison between the two, as this one does.

Adams’ art was enhanced here, as it had been on X-Men (and would be on Avengers as well, in about eight months time), by the inking of Tom Palmer, one of the finest embellishers in American comics.  But his most essential collaborator on the Inhumans feature (as, again, on both the earlier X-Men and the later Avengers) was writer Roy Thomas, whose storytelling sensibilities seem to have been a good fit for his own.

In this story’s opening panels, Thomas’ script picks up on a long-running if intermittent theme in Inhumans stories — their desire to be accepted among ordinary humans, so that they don’t feel compelled to remain forever hidden in their Great Refuge of Attilan, which lies nestled in the Himalayas:

Readers had last seen Maximus the Mad in Inhumans #2, when his plot to set his royal kindred against their pals the Fantastic Four had gone awry, and he’d been captured.  Unfortunately for both Medusa and her just-departed husband Black Bolt (and before too very long, just about everyone else in Attilan, as well), their cousins Gorgon and Karnak are skeptical that Max’s current status really is for the “best”, suspecting that their ruler has something much more fatal in mind for his errant sibling.  And hey, even if Maximus is just as malevolent as he is maniacal, the guy’s still family, y’know?  Thus, despite Medusa’s protestations that the mysterious cylinder holding Maximus must surely be an instrument merely of confinement, or even healing, Gorgon feels compelled to wonder aloud if its true purpose is, rather, murder

This page provides us with our only glimpse this issue of the water-going Triton, my own personal favorite member of the Inhumans’ headlining cast back in the day.  His cameo leaves the elemental Inhuman, Crystal, as the only member of the Royal Family unaccounted for — which is interesting in and of itself, as Crystal had left the Fantastic Four in New York City to return home to Attilan just three months before, in FF #105.  Why neither she nor her mode of transportation for that journey — the Inhumans’ teleporting family dog, Lockjaw — play a part in this storyline is a mystery not to be cleared up until the following September, in FF #117.  (Just in case you’re curious, instead of bringing Crys and himself home, Lockjaw had accidentally teleported them both into the far future, where they were immediately captured by the alchemist Diablo.  Oops.)

That night in Attilan, Karnak sneaks into the dark chamber where Maximus’ cylinder is housed, only to discover he’s not the only one who’s had that idea:

Meanwhile, some 6000 miles away, in the city we’ll eventually be informed is San Francisco (where it really shouldn’t be night at the same time it is in Attilan, there presumably being about a fifteen hour time difference between the locations* — but never mind)…

Black Bolt quickly (but non-fatally) dispatches the would-be warehouse thieves, then turns to the boy Joey, who is still lying where he fell when his uncle Roscoe struck him:

Joey considers taking off and leaving this nameless stranger to his fate, as he knows his uncle would do — but then he remembers what his dad would do, and — despite not feeling all that great himself — manages to drag Black Bolt’s unconscious body far enough out of the middle of the sidewalk that he at least won’t be in danger of being stepped on.

Meanwhile, back in Attilan…

Yikes!  Now there’s a cliffhanger for you.  Newly gifted with the power to blank out minds (and at a distance of six thousand miles, no less) Maximus presently seems to have the upper hand in Attilan, while in San Francisco, Black Bolt appears poised to unwittingly wipe out most of that city.  Of course, this whole dire situation is dependent on a narrative contrivance that has Black Bolt, who’s always been portrayed as a responsible and competent leader of his people, taking off for a solo mission halfway across the world without telling any of his trusted family members what he’s just discovered about his brother Max.  (And speaking of that solo mission — how the heck was BB planning to “find a place for us… amidst the mistrustful humans“, to quote Medusa from page 2, when he wouldn’t even be able to strike up a conversation with anyone he might encounter wandering the Bay City streets?  The entire endeavor doesn’t seem to have been thought out very well, to say the least.)

But, if you’re willing to look past the implausibility of just how we got here (and in 1970, my thirteen-year-old self probably never even gave it a second thought), it’s a great set-up for dramatic storytelling on at least two fronts — and that’s exactly what Thomas and Adams (with some help from fill-in scripter Gerry Conway in #7) would deliver to readers over the next three issues of Amazing Adventures.  Regrettably, both creators would leave the book before completing their Inhumans storyline; fortunately, however, they’d eventually manage to tie off most of the remaining loose ends in Avengers, of all places, as part of the classic “Kree-Skrull War” saga.  But, that’s a discussion for another day, and another post.


Moving on to the comic’s second feature:  As I’ve already noted, I was relatively indifferent to the Black Widow around this time.  This issue’s installment managed to catch my fancy a bit more than those that had appeared in the first two issues of Amazing Adventures, however.  That was due in large part to the changes in the strip’s creative lineup since I had last checked in — and the changes that those new creators had brought with them, in turn:

Gene Colan and Bill Everett had actually come on board with issue #3, taking over the art chores in the midst of the Gary Friedrich-scripted, Young Lords-inspired storyline that had begun in #1 and finally wrapped up for good in #4.  Roy Thomas, on the other hand, was new to the strip with this issue, just as he was to the Inhumans.

As will be confirmed on the next page, the burly, mustachioed gent in the green turtleneck is Natasha Romanoff’s chauffeur, Ivan, a character first seen in AA #1.  In that appearance, as well as in subsequent ones, he’d come across as a standard-model professional driver, calling the Widow “Madame”, taking her where she wanted to go, and otherwise staying out of her way.  Only his Russian name gave any indication that he might have any deeper connection with his employer, the former Soviet spy turned superheroine.  But as hinted at in this opening scene, and elaborated on in those to follow, Roy Thomas had a larger and more interesting role in mind for Ivan.

Once the young would-be bridge-diver decides to come along quietly, Ivan drives the two of them back to the Widow’s apartment building.  Along the way, he picks up a miniature radio transmitter and makes a call…

In a 1999 interview with Jon B. Cooke for Comic Book Artist Special Edition #1, comics writer and historian Mark Evanier observed:

At that time [the early 1970s], there was a little bit of a fetish going on in comics where all the heroines were suddenly taking showers… All of a sudden, after years of strenuous fight scenes, all of the super-heroines suddenly found it necessary to take showers in their comics. It was just a little exploitation thing and everybody was a little horny about it.

In May, 2020, Jim Thompson, co-administrator of the “Comic Book Historians” Facebook group, used this very Evanier quote as the basis for a series of posts showcasing showering Seventies superheroines — and guess what Thomas/Colan/Everett page was Exhibit A?

But then, what else could it be?  This is a page seared into the memories of (cis, male, heterosexual) fans of a certain age.  Indeed, it’s the first thing that came to my mind when I myself initially read that Evanier interview** (coincidentally, just a month or so prior to Jim’s Facebook post); for that matter, it’s usually the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I think of the Black Widow strip in Amazing Adventures, period.

Look, I was thirteen years old, OK?  Moving right along…

Ivan’s backstory would be revealed gradually over the years and decades to follow — and like that of many another long-running supporting character in comics, it would eventually pick up a number of contradictions.  (In Ivan’s case, the problem would be exacerbated by the need to adjust both his and the Black Widow’s personal histories within Marvel’s “sliding timescale”, as the Soviet Union, central to both characters’ origins, receded further and further into history in the real world of Marvel’s readers.)  But in the original version, at least, Ivan Petrovich had first met Natasha Romanoff in 1942, during the siege of Stalingrad, when Natasha’s mother saved her daughter from death by dropping her from the balcony of a burning building into the arms of a passing stranger.  That stranger, Ivan, had immediately taken on the role of protector and father figure to the orphaned little girl, remaining involved in her life as she grew to adulthood and became a spy.  When Natasha decided to defect to the United States, Ivan had supported her decision, and later joined her there.

Most of these details weren’t revealed until Daredevil #88 (June, 1972), in a story scripted by Roy Thomas’ successor on that title as well as on “Black Widow”, Gerry Conway.  It’s difficult to know how much of this history Thomas had in mind when he gave Ivan his upgraded role (and more interesting personality) in AA #5, but Conway’s narrative was certainly consistent with the hints of a long, close relationship, beginning with Natasha’s childhood in Stalingrad, that Thomas drops over the course of this 10-pager.

Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin. Art by Jim Holdaway.

The other thing worth noting about Ivan’s upgrade is that it seems to have been at least loosely based on Willie Garvin, a character featured in the Modesty Blaise newspaper comic strip created in 1963 by author Peter O’Donnell (writer) and Jim Holdaway (artist).  Like Ivan, Willie functions as the confidant of and right-hand man to the younger adventuress who’s the real star of the show; in both instances, the relationship between the headlining heroine and her male sidekick is close, but devoid of romance or sexual tension.

This was a pretty workable setup for the Black Widow in her solo strip, in my opinion, giving Natasha someone interesting to talk to and play off of, as well as allowing the feature’s writers to explore the Widow’s unusual and mysterious background without overloading the stories with internal monologues and flashbacks.  Unfortunately, much of the concept’s utility was inevitably reduced when Ms. Romanoff lost her solo spot, and resumed hanging around regularly with other costumed folks — Daredevil, to begin with, then the Champions, then the Avengers (again), and so on.  After all, who needs a burly chauffeur for added muscle, when Hercules has your back?

(That said, I wish Marvel had just let Ivan retire gracefully, instead of deciding to turn him into an unhinged villainous cyborg who had a secret sexual longing for the woman he’d known since she was a small child [eww].  I’m generally a big fan of Paul Cornell’s writing, but I’d just as soon the story he gave us in the 2009-10 miniseries Black Widow: Deadly Origin had been left untold.)

Our nameless young friend explains that he is in fact from Utah, having abandoned “the small town scene” in pursuit of “global villages… new life-styles on the Lower East Side…”  Arriving in the Big Apple alone and without contacts, however, he’d soon found himself sleeping on park benches.  When a stranger offered him a place to stay, he didn’t feel he could refuse — despite his benefactor’s odd get-up and demeanor:

The Astrologer is an obvious “Fagin” type, whose avowed predilection for the pseudoscience from which he takes his name doesn’t seem to go much further than his claim to plan his crimes “by the stars“.  But it does allow our storytellers to give the villain of their piece an appropriately comic-booky codename and costume.  (And if the choice of astrology for a bad guy theme seems rather random — well, astrology was enjoying a special vogue during this era, as signified by the popularity of such cultural products as the hit song “Aquarius” [from the musical Hair]  and the best-selling book Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.)

Twice in this story, including in the third panel above, Thomas uses “raps” as a slang term apparently meaning “friends” or “colleagues”; I can’t recall ever seeing or hearing the word used this way anywhere else.

But even as Ivan takes on the thugs in the stairwell, Natasha and her charge hear strange sounds coming from above — and our heroine remembers that while only her own private elevator comes to the 22nd floor, the building’s public elevator does go to the roof.  “Be right back,” she tells her new friend, and then…

An unexpectedly bleak ending — and one which pretty much ensured that “And To All a Good Night…” was never going to get reprinted in a Marvel Christmas anthology. (UPDATE, 12/12/20: Over on the “Marvel Comics Fans 1961-1986” Facebook group, Foster H. Coker III has just now helpfully pointed out that this story in fact was reprinted, just four years later, in the Marvel Treasury Special, Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag.  My apologies for the error, and thanks to Mr. Coker for the correction [as well as to reader “Shining Knight”, whose similar comment, received a few minutes after Mr. Coker’s, is posted below].  Though, still… I mean, talk about your many moods of Christmas…)

The Astrologer storyline would play out over the next two issues; and, as it progressed, readers would see Natasha Romanoff becoming more and more concerned that she was somehow responsible for all the deaths that had taken place in her life — including not just the the two boys at the end of issue #5’s installment, or the Astrologer, who would meet his demise in the climax of #7, but even her late husband, the original Red Guardian, who’d died several years earlier in Avengers #44 (Sept., 1967).  Along the way, there’d be still more creative changes for the short-lived feature, with both Gene Colan and Bill Everett being replaced by Don Heck and Sal Buscema in #6, while Gerry Conway would take over for Thomas as scripter with #7.  Issue #7 would also find Everett returning as inker, now embellishing Heck’s pencils, while Thomas himself returned to script #8’s installment over a Conway plot.

But to read more about that story — the last Black Widow story that would appear in Amazing Adventures — as well as about Thomas and Neal Adams’ final Inhumans outing, you’ll need to check back in this space come next June.  So mark your calendars, and I’ll see you then.

*UPDATE, 12/13/20:  In the time since this post originally went up a day ago, Blake Stone (over on the Masterworks Message Board at CollectedEditions.com) has done the math and figured out that, in December, there would actually be a 1-to-2 hour window when it could be dark simultaneously in Nepal (representing the Himalayas) and San Francisco.  As soon as I can figure out how he did it, I’m going to go back in time to offer Mr. Stone a No-Prize on Thomas and Adams’ behalf.

**For the record, Mr. Evanier made his comment in the context of discussing a page in Jack Kirby’s Mister Miracle #6 (Jan.-Feb., 1972) which featured Big Barda in the bathtub; and no, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to wait a year for that one.

24 comments

  1. Shining Knight · December 12

    Actually, the Black Widow story did make it into a Marvel Christmas anthology – 1974’s Marvel Treasury Special Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag, along with Marvel Team-Up # 1 and a couple of totally non-festive stories. I remember getting this issue back when I was a kid, however at seven and a half, I don’t think I was affected by the Natasha shower scene as you might have been. It does look good in the bigger Treasury format…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · December 12

      Shining Knight, thank you very much for the correction — though I’m afraid Foster Coker beat you to the draw by about 15 minutes over on Facebook! Regardless of who dinged me first, though, this should teach me to make such blanket statements without triple-checking them.

      Like

  2. dangermash · December 12

    That Black Widow story belongs tight up there alongside Avengers #84 and Silver Surfer #4 as one of the greatest stories ever In pure artwork terms.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dangermash · December 12

    Also on the holiday grabbag along with the Black Widow and MYU #1 (Spider-Man & Torch vs Sandman) were the two part Thing vs Hulk from FF #25 -26 and Daredevil vs Sub Mariner from DD #7.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. B Smith · December 12

    The Modesty Blaise comparison becomes even less loose when you realise that both Natasha and Modesty were orphans of exotic foreign origin, both independently wealthy living in a metropolitan penthouse apartment, and one whose companion spouted lines from old Hollywood movies (initially, anyway) while the other plucked psalms out of the air (having done solitary for a year with only a psalter for company).

    As for “Thomas uses “raps” as a slang term apparently meaning “friends” or “colleagues…” – I seem to recall in Avengers #88, Captain American an the Falcon head for New Orleans to check an old rap of the Falcon’s…script by R. Thomas.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · December 12

      A-ha! Now if we can only figure out where Mr. Thomas picked it up from…

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  5. I completely understand. There are illustrations of beautiful women from comic books published in the early 1990s, when I was 13 and 14 years old, that are burned into my memories, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Don · December 12

    This question has probably been asked before, but, “Why do the Inhumans wear masks?” I mean, I know, they’re Marvel superheroes created in the 60’s, that’s why, but what’s the internal story logic (perhaps I’m giving Lee and Kirby too much credit in that regard)? I understand why Medusa would be masked in her escapades with the Frightful Five (or whatever they were called), at least moreso than what she was doing with that group in the first place, but for Inhuman royalty, living in their own land, with no secret identities to speak of, why did they need masks? Looking back, fifty years later, it just seems silly.

    As I pointed out in my response to last week’s post, this is another instance of a writer jumping over logic and plot points to get to the “good stuff.” Why do the Inhumans need a home among the humans? How is Black Bolt going to secure one when he can’t speak? Why do Karnak and Gorgon suddenly distrust their leader when they normally follow him blindly into whatever comes along? How can Maximus pinpoint Black Bolt’s location several thousand miles away immediately upon recovering from a coma? Thomas, who is a great and imaginative writer, answers none of these questions for us here, which points out one of the biggest flaws in the Marvel Method in which they sacrifice story cohesion for non-stop action. Adams is great here, as is Palmer, and that final panel kicks you right in the head, but the bulk of the story makes no sense.

    As for the Black Widow story, I never cared for Natasha until she became romantically involved with Daredevil, so I missed most, if not all of the Ivan stuff. This story to me, seemed particularly weak in that it shows the Widow to be largely ineffective against the intruders into her home and completely unable to prevent the boy (whose name we never learn) from going over the side of the building and giving his life for hers. And to call his sacrifice suicide?? Thomas should be ashamed. To call that suicide is to completely negate the kid’s suddenly and heretofore unknown bravery and self-sacrifice and turning it into something dark and selfish. Shame on you, Mr. Thomas. Shame on you.

    I never liked these “two hero” books. Aside from the fact that I had always assumed they were all reprint books (my bad), they just don’t give each hero enough room for their individual stories to breathe. Not to mention the sheer randomness of putting the Inhumans and Black WIdown together under one cover. Unnecessary shower scenes aside, that makes no sense.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Alan. I had forgotten what it was like to be thirteen years old and turned on by a completely unrevealing picture of a naked woman in the shower. Those were the days. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in my bunk…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · December 12

      Why do the Inhumans wear masks? Like you said, there’s no good reason save that if you were in a Marvel comic in the mid-’60s and you had superpowers, you wore a mask. (Unless you were Triton, of course, and your whole face “presented” as a mask, anyway.) It certainly made sense that the much-maligned Inhumans TV series of a few years back dispensed with them entirely. It’s also interesting, I think, that the next time Kirby had the chance to design a bunch of super-people whose “costumes” were essentially street clothes — the denizens of New Genesis and Apokolips — he largely avoided masks. (Orion was a notable exception, but his mask actually makes story sense as a warrior’s helmet.)

      I can’t disagree with any of your other points, either, with the exception of the labeling of the unnamed boy’s death in the Widow story as a suicide. I think that Thomas was using the term only in a technical sense. After all, how did the boy die? He intentionally threw himself off the roof of a tall building. For all I know, that’s the category such a death would go into on an actual NYPD police report, regardless of the heroic context. In any event, I didn’t understand Thomas (or Natasha) to be denigrating the young man’s sacrifice.

      I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the split books, despite being two young to have enjoyed their true heyday, and also despite the fact that even in 1970, you often felt like a story had barely gotten going when it was over for the issue. Of course, in the modern era of decompressed storytelling, 10 page chapters wouldn’t work even that well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder how much of the plotting on the Inhumans story was by Roy Thomas, and how much was by Neal Adams. I’ve found Adams is a much, much better artist than he is a writer. I think Adams works best when given full scripts to illustrate.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Don · December 12

    Exceptions that prove the rule from Kirby’s own pencil, Marvel’s flagship team the Fantastic Four, none of whom were masked and in the Fourth World books, Mister Miracle was also masked, which, unlike Orion made no sense at all.

    We’ll agree to disagree about the suicide thing. Feels wrong to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · December 12

      Good point about the FF. In the very beginning, of course, they didn’t even have costumes (or uniforms, if you prefer). Some people think Marvel was still feeling a little tentative about the whole superhero thing, which is why the first couple of Fantastic Fours feel as much like the publisher’s contemporary monster/fantasy books as they do a knockoff of the JLA (probably more so, actually). Things had changed quite a lot by the time Kirby designed the Inhumans, in 1965.

      As for Mister Miracle, Kirby does actually offer a rationale for his superhero costume and mask — maybe not a terribly convincing one, but it’s there. Further discussion about that should probably wait until my MM #1 post next month, though. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. JoshuaRascal · December 14

    I agree with an earlier comment about the artwork for the Black Widow story. Bill Everett was a great inker for Gene Colan. In addition to the Black Widow stories in Amazing Adventures Nos. 3 to 5. Everett inked the Sub-Mariner stories drawn by Gene Colan in Tales to Astonish No. 79 and No. 85 as well as a few of Tales to Astonish covers for Sub-Mariner stories during that same period that I thought were outstanding. I don’t know of any other Colan/Everett collaborations. Too bad if they didn’t do more The only inker for Gene Colan I thought was maybe better would be Tom Palmer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wish Everett had inked Colan much more often. Tales to Astonish #78 and Captain America #136 were two other occasions they were paired up. The handful of times they worked together resulted in beautiful artwork.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · December 14

      JoshuaRascal, as pointed out by Ben Herman in his comment, there’s at least one more Colan/Everett collaboration for you to seek out and enjoy — Captain America #136.

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    • Sean Clarke · December 16

      Colan/Everett are the Lennon/McCartney artist pairing of my collecting life. They drew Amazing Adventures #’s 3, 4 and 5 with the Black Widow, Marvel romance art from “My Love” #13 (“How Do I Make Him Love Me?”), #15 (“A Fool About Love”) & #16 (“Formula For Love!”), Captain America #’s 136 and 137, and Sub-mariner in Tales To Astonish #’s 79, 85, and some covers. I have a page or two from many of these, but am desperately seeking any/all examples!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alan Stewart · December 16

        “Ah but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?” — Robert Browning

        Good luck with your continuing quest, Sean!

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  9. Stu Fischer · December 15

    I remember being very excited the first time I read Amazing Adventures #5. First off, the team that presented the X-Men series that I sorely missed, Thomas/Adams/Palmer was back. Second, the Black Widow, well, I’ll get to that.
    When I first read the book in 1970, I never thought of the logical inconsistencies that you and some commenters pointed out in the Inhumans story, particularly sending Black Bolt, who can’t talk without catastrophe, to meet and greet. However, now I find an additional inconsistency that you all missed. Why is Black Bolt seeking to have the Inhumans live with humans in a city when we knowthat Crystal can’t live in a human environment because of all of the pollution? While I’m at it, why did it take the Inhumans so long to notice that Crystal didn’t come back with Lockjaw and go and search for her (that would seem to have been a much more sensible plotline to pursue in an Inhumans book at this point).

    While I agree that it is inconsistent from their previous characters to have Gorgon and Karnak challenge Black Bolt’s decisions, let alone thinking that he plans to murder Maximus, I found it welcome that they actually developed interesting characters here. In my comments to Amazing Adventures #1, I noticed with irritation how it seemed that every other sentence from each Inhuman’s mouth was about how great Black Bolt was, how infallible Black Bolt was, how much they needed Black Bolt. It was even worse than Asgardians talking about Odin (and Odin really wanted that treatment from them, Black Bolt didn’t seem to care). Having Gorgon and Karnak be critical of Black Bolt and to outright defy him was a nice change of pace, even if they proved the points of the Inhumans in Amazing Adventures #1 because Black Bolt was right here and Gorgon and Karnak needed to follow his directives. I mean, freeing Maximus the Mad who only spends all of his time trying to obliterate or dominate them? What could possibly go wrong?

    Turning to the Black Widow, I can continue my ongoing argument with you as to whether the Black Widow was more beautiful and sexy in the 1970s before Frank Miller gave her a pixie haircut, a drab gray costume and a perky personality in the 1980s. Do I remember the shower scene in this issue? Hell yeah! It had an impact on me at the age of nine when I already had some childhood crushes (Yvonne Craig, Lara Parker from “Dark Shadows”). Moreover, if you thought that the shower scene was seductive, I’m surprised that you didn’t note Natasha’s seductive pose at the front door when greeting her guest with “Good Evening and . . . Merry Christmas”. All that’s missing is the mistletoe. I honestly wish that I had a blown up pin-up of that panel (only of Natasha) to have hung on my bedroom wall.

    Now that I’m older, I also look at the story progression between Ivan’s telling the teen that “You’ve got a date with her buddy”, the shower scene and the greeting. It almost seems like Ivan is out looking for young, depressed teens to take to the Black Widow for. . . dates. OK, I’ll stop there except to say that watching the teen being completely obnoxious and combative about his good fortune, I can’t say that I felt sorry about his ultimate fate.

    I was shocked at the ending in 1970 and again just re-reading it now. I was expecting a heart-warming Christmas story with a heart-warming ending (perhaps similar to my fantasy take on this tale, heh, heh). I mean, the title is “And to All A Good Night” and I don’t recall either then or now Marvel using ironic story titles, which this one certainly is.

    OK, I’ve rattled on enough on this topic. Time to go back to thinking about the first few pages of the Natasha story. Maybe I should take a shower.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · December 15

      Hmm, maybe you’d better make that a cold shower, Stu.

      Good point about the inconsistency of Black Bolt looking to integrate the Inhumans into human society, when he’s presumably just learned (per FF #105) that such a move would be deadly for them, environmentally speaking. In “in-universe” terms, I guess you could tinker with the chronology so that at the time AA #5 begins, Crystal’s family still believes that she and lockjaw are with the FF in NYC — though, in the real world, I would guess that Thomas and Adams simply weren’t aware of that particular plot twist when they developed their storyline. In any event, I hadn’t read that FF issue at the time AA #5 came out, so I didn’t notice the discrepancy.

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  10. Keith Danielsen · January 24

    The excitement of Neal Adams coming onto the Inhumans feature was quickly blunted by the poor choice to have John Verpoorton become the inker instead of Tom Palmer. I wish that Tom could have fit that extra 10 pages into his schedule for the next 3 issues. He and Adams were the best penciller/inker combo ever. Don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but reportedly Palmer got tired of pulling all nighters to make up for the the deadlines Adams blew. Loved the Widow story. What a great team Colan and Everett made. The Widow shower scene was quite risque for its day. Unfortunately, AA frequently changing creative teams and lack of direction led to both features getting the boot and the furry version of the Beast taking their place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · January 24

      I don’t have as many problems with John Verpoorten’s inking of Adams as you and quite a few other fans seem to — though I agree, Tom Palmer was better!

      Like

  11. Pingback: Sub-Mariner #40 (August, 1971) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books

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