Captain Marvel #20-21
Issue(s): Captain Marvel #20, Captain Marvel #21
Rick has apparently not let Marv out of the Negative Zone for "months" or at least "weeks"...
...so the duo finally decide to do something about it. Rick decides to hunt down Bruce Banner to ask for help. Going to the Fantastic Four would have been a better option, but Rick of course has a personal connection with Bruce so it makes sense.
On their way to find Banner, Captain Marvel stops to help out at the site of a tornado, and while he's there he fights off some looters called the Rat Pack.
The encounter is nearly incidental, really just a way to show off Marvel's powers (and, i think, pad the story so that the Hulk fight extends into the next issue), but the Rat Pack will appear again to give Tigra far more trouble.
Eventually they make it to Banner, and Banner mentions that that he's heard about the Negative Zone through "hints" that Reed Richards has published in "professional journals".
I'd like to know when Bruce has had time to keep up with professional journals while he's been on the run pretty much nonstop since he became the Hulk, but it's also worth looking at in light of the continuity insert Marvel Monsters: Monsters on the Prowl #1, which has Bruce Banner showing up at the Baxter Building fully aware of the dimension (and definitely takes place earlier than this). Banner also says that Richards "has gone on record as thinking the place is too dangerous to become common knowledge" but also "theorizes that the Neg-Zone is somehow related to Cosmic Rays... and Gamma Rays".
I guess to be fair to the Marvel Monsters story, it seems the hints Richards has been dropping are fairly detailed.
Banner decides he needs some help on the project from his old college professor, Josiah Weller, who is at Desert State University. Weller is unfortunately under siege by college students protesting the fact that his research is subsidized by the government.
Weller says he isn't actually doing anything related to the war effort, but the students don't seem to know or believe that.
It's not unusual for Marvel to make protestors look like idiots but i question the wisdom of insulting your likely readership in a book that is already in a precariously low sales position. Rick Jones sticks up for the protestors but in-story that just makes him look dumb too; if these protestors really are harassing a professor whose research has nothing to do with military projects, everyone associated with them is coming away looking bad. The other angle, though, is that Bruce Banner's career very much was about developing weapons for the military until it was interrupted by his transformation into the Hulk. So how objective is he? Are Weller and Banner both just insulated eggheads unaware of the applications of their research?
Anyway, the thought of students harassing his professor makes him mad, so he turns into the Hulk and leaps across the desert to smash them. This of course initiates a big fight with Captain Marvel.
Ultimately, though, it's Rick Jones who is able to talk the Hulk down. Unfortunately, the Hulk had already smashed the contraption that Banner had built to help with Rick and Marv's Negative Zone problem.
Three quirks during the fight. First, when Rick swaps places with Mar-Vell, the swap is supposed to last three hours. But Mar-Vell can apparently draw more power to himself, giving him more strength (although not enough to do much to the Hulk)...
...although it speeds up the amount of time before Marv is replaced with Rick again.
Second, a bit earlier, Bruce Banner quotes a verse by Thomas Randolph: "Justice, like lightning, ever should appear to few men ruin, but to all men fear.".
Later, transforming into Captain Marvel, Rick Jones uses (and partially butchers) the phrase.
I just note it since that later becomes the Thunderbolts' catch-phrase.(P.S., the attribution for this verse seems to be a bit uncertain.)
Third, while surprised that the Hulk was able to take one of his punches, Captain Marvel exclaims "I could have smashed a robot with that blow -- but you're still standing!".
I just wanted to say that a robot probably isn't a good unit of measurement. Are we talking C3PO or Ultron here? Of course, Captain Marvel's earliest issues were almost monotonously focused on robot fighting so i guess it's his go-to comparison.
The cover of issue #20 includes a blurb saying "Back by popular demand!! The hero who wouldn't die!" which is ironically the same blurb that will be used on issue #22, published more than a year later after an even longer hiatus. It's extra ironic since Captain Marvel is pretty much the only hero who really does die.
The end of issue #22 explicitly calls these issues a try-out...
...and i guess sales didn't merit an immediate continuation of the series. You'd think a Hulk battle would have helped, although maybe getting directly to the battle in issue #20 would have been the better move. Also, i'm never a big fan of Gil Kane's art, but it seems particularly weird in these issues.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's said in this issue that Rick hasn't let Captain Marvel out of the Negative Zone for a while, so this should take place before Captain Marvel's appearance in Sub-Mariner #30.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
good gravy, so many up-nose shots from mr. Kane's artwork. It's beginning to feel like a fetish.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | March 1, 2013 1:12 PM
And don't forget the clenched-but-not-closed fingers look, as shown in that shot of Bruce Banner. I love it, though. Eli Katz (Kane's real name) is my man.
I assume that "try-out" was just a spin Marvel put on these issues when they were really being released to keep their claim on the "Captain Marvel" copyright alive. If they were doing anything but marking time on this series, I don't think they would have burned off the original "issue 22" in Sub-Mariner 30, as noted on that page.
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 1, 2014 5:49 AM
And, not to repeat myself, but the series' focus on Rick Jones instead of the TITLE CHARACTER is just insane. Poor Marv spends all his time in the Neg Zone, until Rick needs a helping hand. He's nothing but a deus ex maKreena at this point.
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 1, 2014 5:51 AM
Quick search: DC actually finally licensed out the Marvel Family (the Fawcett ones) for their own "Shazam!" book in 1972, which is two years after this issue. My guess is that Marvel probably realized that if they didn't keep their Captain Marvel going, someone would bring back Billy Batson...but luckily by the time Captain Marvel (Fawcett) was returning, Jim Steranko had an idea for Marvel's so it all worked out somehow.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 1, 2014 8:13 AM
Deh, I meant Starlin...they both have "Jim" for a name, sue me.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 1, 2014 8:14 AM
I'm surprised to see Dan Adkins' inks don't look that bad in this story IMO. Much better than what I've seen previously.
I can't suspend my disbelief enough to accept ( a.) Rick Jones as a rock star, or ( b.) Roy Thomas as a lyricist. It's just too much.
Posted by: James Holt | November 1, 2016 8:14 PM
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