Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Review- Adventure Into Fear Nos. 20-31 and Amazing Spider-Man No. 699.1

Adventure Into Fear Nos. 20-31 and Amazing Spider-Man No. 699.1 (Marvel; cover dates February, 1974- December, 1975 and February, 2013)

Writers: Mike Friedrich (20), Steve Gerber (21-25), Doug Moench (25-28), Bill Mantlo (29-31), and Dan Keatinge with Dan Slott (ASM 699.1)

Artists: Paul Gulacy (Penciler, 20), Jack Abel (Inker, 20, 24), Gil Kane (Penciler, 21), Vince Colletta (Inker, 21, 23, 28, 31), Rich Buckler (Penciler, 22), Luis Domingues (Inker, 22), Craig Russell (Penciler, 23, 24), Frank Robbins (Penciler, 25-28, 31), Frank Giacoia (Inker, 25, 26), Leonard Starr (Inker, 27), Don Heck (Penciler, 29), Bob McLeod (Inker, 29), George Evans (Penciler, 30), Frank Springer (Inker, 30), and Valentine Delandro and Marko Checchetto (ASM 699.1)

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. My love for Morbius the Living Vampire began in the Fall of 1979 when my Mom bought me Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #38 at the Farmer Jack by my house. Next for me was Giant-Size Superheroes #1, a quarter box find in 1983 which had Spider-Man taking on Morbius and the Man-Wolf with artwork by Gil Kane. I saw the house ad for Adventure Into Fear #20 in Amazing Spider-Man #131, another quarter box find during that time. Then I found that issue at the Book Bin in Lincoln Park for a quarter (or maybe .35...I think that it might have been bagged with the old double flapped sleeve). Thus began my love affair with this character.

Artwork by Paul Gulacy.

Issue 20 is pure genius. Mike Friedrich sets up a chilling scenario and Paul Gulacy's artwork is brilliant. I read this issues several dozen times in the mid-'80s. What can I say? My family was poor and we didn't have cable. I tracked down issue 21 and the rest, but none were as brilliant as that first issue. Still, that issue's impact was so severe that it made me realize the potential that the character has when done right.

Artwork by Paul Gulacy. This page has a brilliant panel layout.

Like many Bronze Age Marvel titles, there is a pass the baton, disjointed feeling to the proceedings. One cannot tell where the story is going because there is a vibe that even the creators themselves don't know where it's going. One guy starts something and then the next guy goes somewhere completely different. It's sometimes disappointing but never dull. Steve Gerber banks hard to the left, maneuvering Morbius out of the straight up Horror vibe of issue 20 and moving into a Science Fiction direction. Since Morbius is a vampire of science and not supernatural origin, this isn't as crazy as it might seem. Gerber turns it into a grand epic of science versus sorcery...and then bails one issue before his climax, leaving poor Doug Moench to tie up the loose ends and try to salvage the title. 

The vibe of this series is much different to the Morbius stories in Vampire Tales, which were published simultaneously. One does not have to read that in order to understand these stories, although one should read Giant-Size Werewolf No. 4, because there is a crossover that directly ties into this series, dealing with a pivotal plotline. I have read it before but did not re-read it for this marathon. 

Artwork by Frank Robbins. His stuff is not my cup of Diet Coke. Your mileage may vary.

So what are my feelings some 30 years later? These comics are nowhere near as good as I remembered them being. Issue 20 is still brilliant but the rest are merely enjoyable and/or occasionally cringe-worthy bad. Frank Robbins does the artwork for 5 of the 12 issues of Fear, and his artwork is not to my liking at all. It's too cartoony, bordering on caricature and is ill-suited to a Horror/ Sci-Fi comic. I must have been more tolerant of bad artwork or had lower standards as a youngster, as I don't recall it bothering me back then. Sorry, but I call them as I see them. Covers face to avoid rocks and tomatoes. Fandom in the '70s apparently felt the same way that I do, with the letter pages filled with complaints about Robbins' artwork.

Morbius in 2012.
Amazing Spider-Man No. 699.1 is a nice precursor to the new series, as it has a more detailed version of Morbius' origin. I implore Marvel to include it in the forthcoming collected edition of the new Morbius series as a “chapter one”. Thanks to Dan Merritt over at Green Brain Comics for pointing this issue out to me, as I had no idea this was even out.

Friends (and enemies) from the Masterworks Message Board will recognize this. I used the old Morbius Marvel Value Stamp as my avatar for years. My replacement? The image from the cover of issue 1 for the new Morbius series.

One would think with Marvel launching a brand new Morbius The Living Vampire series (issue 1 is in stores January 2!!) that now would be the time to reissue this, along with his other Bronze Age appearances, in an Omnibus. I'd also be thrilled with a Marvel Masterworks offering. I'd be happy with a trade paperback. I guess I could live with an Essential if I had to. Please release a collected edition of this material, Marvel! Morbius, Man-Wolf, and Werewolf By Night (in color, since we have the Essentials) are my dream collected editions. And Micronauts...ROM...Shogun Warriors...Logan's Run... I am truly ill, but I'd buy trades or hardcovers of them all.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I can rest assured that all linework and color are faithful to the original publication since they are the original publication. I also get a kick out of old ads, such as the Columbia Record and Tape Club offering music on LP, 8-track cartridge, cassette, and Reel-to-reel. Reel-to-reel was apparently already on the way out at this time, as many selections had an asterisk denoting that they were not available on that format.

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