|Micronauts 7; July 1979|
Cover by Michael Golden and Neal Adams
Writer: Bill Mantlo, Pencils Michael Golden, Inks Josef Rubinstein
Redartz: Hey folks! For many months we have planned to do a review of a Micronauts issue, and in this Halloween season, what better issue to feature than one guest starring the macabre Man-Thing? So what are we waiting for, let's get started!
To begin with, here's the capsule summary of the action (there's so much going on in here, I don't think a 100-word review will suffice).
The main storyline opens with the Micronauts (Commander Arcturus Rann, Marionette, Prince Acroyear, Biotron, Microtron and Bug) in the company of young Steve Coffin, the son of former astronaut Ray Coffin. Long story short, they are fishing at the Coffin's Everglades retreat while hiding out after escaping from H.E.L.L.(the Human Engineering Life Laboratory) at Cape Canaveral. Steve's father worked there and fell into the Promethius Pit (a dimensional interface) and disappeared. Take my word for it.
Anyway, Steve is grieving for his missing, and feared dead, father. But recall, this is the Everglades, and therein lurks a denizen particularly sensitive to such strong emotions: the Man-Thing. Manny is attracted by Steve's grieving, and makes his way to the fishing shack. Steve, emotionally distraught, runs from the shack right into the presence of the Man-Thing.
Of course his first reaction is terror, and as we all know, "whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing". The Micronauts rush to Steve's defense, but prove pretty ineffectual against the walking slime bog.
Steve finally pulls himself together and is determined to make a stand; he fires up the swamp buggy and essentially puts the Man-Thing through a blender. Of course this doesn't harm the creature, but he feels Steve's courage and wanders off into the swamp.
Oh, and there is also a brief retelling of the Micronauts' origin...
We also follow up on Ray Coffin, who fell into the Microverse with Dr. Promethius. Promethius has gone nuts and is discovered by the villainous Baron Karza who plans to possess Promethius' body in order to invade Earth in search of the Micronauts. Also, Ray himself has been transported to the presence of the mysterious Enigma Force. Then we catch up with the rebels on Commander Rann's home world, Homeworld. And finally, it appears Baron Karza has succeeded in reaching Earth!
Yes, all this in a 32-page comic. This would require a six issue arc, these days...
Martinex1: I could not agree more Red. One of the things that made The Micronauts one of my favorite books was the complexity of the storytelling. It may not be Shakespeare, but Bill Mantlo and the artistic teams sure piled a lot into every issue. I really wish comics were still like this. At the very least it gave me a good long read; at best it drew me into the detailed plots and intricate characterizations. I know that the book does not carry the cache of The Avengers or The X-Men, but back in the Bronze Age this book was on par with the greats.
Redartz: One of the biggest attractions to this comic. This is a truly incredible cover, rich with detail and swampy moodiness. Golden's art is wonderful to begin with, and having Neal Adams inks just puts 'extra sprinkles on the frosting'. Man-Thing looks great, and that snake in the foreground could slither right off the cover.
Martinex1: I agree. How could this not be a "must buy book?" Golden's style has changed a bit over the years, but I really liked this era in his career. His characters had a style that was distinct and there were always levels to the detail. Both here and on ROM Spaceknight covers, his work stood out for me.
Redartz: First off, I love the title "Adventure into Fear." An homage to Man-Thing's first 32-page comic series. A nice touch.
As noted above, there's a lot of material in this story. Mantlo does a fine job interweaving the myriad storylines together, and there are several. Karza's pursuit of the Micronauts, Ray Coffin's disappearance, the revolt on Homeworld, and the teaming of Steve with the Micronauts themselves.
Speaking of which, Mantlo also succeeds nicely at giving voice to each unique character. Acroyear's dignity, Bug's wit, Microtron's subtle humor. What's more, Mantlo portrays the character of teenage Steve with sensitivity and perception.
Another feature of Mantlo's writing here is the gradual exposition of the Micronaut's back story. The origin is revealed over the course of several issues, here Princess Mari (Marionette) learns some of that background from Rann's android friend Biotron (with whom Rann shares a mental link). One interesting feature of the Micro's tale is the depiction of Homeworld as a chain molecule.
Martinex1: I love that molecular detail. In later chapters we find that each world has a different climate, nature, or theme. It was a very creative touch.
Redartz::This tale has just about everything: some humorous bits. The climactic scene of Steve putting Man-Thing through the swamp buggy could have come from an old issue of "Mad", when it still had that EC edginess. Of course there's plenty of drama and character development, and a generous helping of horror. That scene (shown above) of Bug trapped beneath Man-Thing's hand, burning alive with fear, is grimly chilling. Then there's that perfectly ominous final panel of Baron Karza emerging to Earth from the Promethius Pit; much stated in that single frame.
Martinex1: For those that don't know the Micronauts' lore, part of the story took place on their molecular homewold(s) and other sections occurred on Earth as the heroes traversed through a breach in the spacewall. On Earth, the Micronauts were always about 6 inches tall. In an early issue when they first arrived on our planet, the team marveled at a playground swing set. They were trying to figure out what the structure was and they supposed it was perhaps a religious monument. It was touches like that - their bewilderment of Earth - that expanded the entertainment for me.
Redartz: What is there to say? Michael Golden is phenomenal, and Joe Rubinstein's a premier inker. They make a very attractive, effective team here.
Golden really shines at facial expressions, as seen in the panels above with Ray and Steve Coffin. With so much going on in this issue, it would be easy for things to get muddled; but Golden keeps the story moving with clear design and intricate (but not too-detailed) rendering. And speaking of rendering, Golden's depiction of the Man-Thing strikes me as very reminiscent of Mike Ploog's. And that is definitely a good thing.
One minor negative, artwise: the art does suffer a bit from muddy printing. It may just be my copy, but some of the linework tends to get a bit lost. I'd love to see the original artwork from this book...
Martinex1: As would I. When Michael Golden's work appeared in the first two issues of Marvel Fanfare, it was so apparent how a better printing process benefitted his details and lines.
Redartz: The artwork From the Microverse to the Everglades, each scene is unique and finely rendered.
Martinex1: Also I think Mantlo must have enjoyed working on this title, because I feel that his characterizations and plots here were among his best.
Redartz: Nothing really bad, but one little note: In the scene, shown above, where Marionette emotes concern over Bug's fiery fate, Commander Rann gets pretty wordy about his parent's background. It would seem more appropriate for a simple 'Holy Mackeral' as they rush to Bug's rather urgent need.
Martinex1: Hah! I agree, but that is also conversely what I so loved about the Bronze Age!
Redartz: Once again, that panel of a burning Bug. It got to me the first time I read this, and it still creeps me out.
Martinex1: I have nothing here.
Redartz: To sum up, a very good, solid Bronze age tale, well told and well illustrated. I would note that it might have been somewhat tough for someone starting the book with this issue, as so much is taking place and there's not much time for rehashing. But I'd recommend this comic, and indeed this title, to anyone. One of the Bronze Age's finest 'B' series.
Martinex1: I think you already know where I stand, but to your point I would recommend that if you read this title that you start with issue #1 and definitely take in the first twelve issues. That first year is really spectacular and tells an epic story. It is too bad that this series does not get collected. Later issues are great too as Pat Broderick takes on the art chores. All in all, it was a great read with fantastic art. I am anxious to hear what our frequent commentators have to say. Cheers all!