Captain Marvel #43-46
Issue(s): Captain Marvel #43, Captain Marvel #44, Captain Marvel #45, Captain Marvel #46
Captain Mar-vell, Rick Jones, and their atomic space mule, are flying through space.
But the Supreme Intelligence has a planned encounter for them, so he causes the mule to malfunction, and they have to set down on a nearby planet to repair it. The Marv/Rick relationship is tense at this point; Rick speculates that Captain Marvel is feeling threatened now that Rick shares his super-powers, but that doesn't cause Rick to act any more maturely or sympathetically.
Rick wanders off and finds a woman that he briefly saw last issue in the space saloon. The fact that she vanished in front of his eyes both then and again now...
...doesn't seem to make him at all suspicious, and he chases after her.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Intelligence guides Drax the Destroyer to Captain Marvel. Drax is going wild because he's sensed that Thanos is active again, but he's unable to locate him.
When he sees Captain Marvel, he attacks...
...because he blames Captain Marvel for killing Thanos last time when it's Drax's only purpose in life.
Poor Drax. He was created to destroy Thanos but he never gets to do it, so you can kind of understand his frustration here, and it's nice to see Milgrom and Englehart using the character.
The Intelligence refers to Drax as an "android" which had me flipping through back issues to confirm that we've learned by now that he's really the resurrected father of Heather Douglas, but we did indeed learn that in Captain Marvel #32, and that origin is referenced in issue #44.
The fight with Drax doesn't go well at first, and meanwhile Rick's mysterious woman convinces him to take off his helmet, at which point he passes out. But we soon learn that the real problem is that Rick and Mar-vell share the same powers very literally, so if Rick is drawing from the Nega-Bands then Marv is unable to fight at full strength. And it was when things were going really bad with Drax that Marv pulled all the power away from Rick, which is what really causes him to pass out. Mar-vell also starts talking like Rick while he's using all power.
Meanwhile, the woman with Rick, who he named Fawn, reaches out to Drax and causes him to know the location of Thanos. So Drax loses interest in fighting with Captain Marvel and flies off.
Captain Marvel is unaware of Fawn; she is invisible to him. But she's able to bring CM to Rick.
The Supreme Intelligence secretly allows the space mule to work again, and Captain Marvel brings Rick to a nearby world, Deneb IV, to get help for him. Unfortunately, the world is overrun by Null-Trons, crazy Stonehenge-ish robots that were outlawed when the Supreme Intelligence took power.
Marv finds that he is in the middle of a war between cyborgs and the Null-Tron robots. The cyborgs are led by a guy who is down to just a head and has taken over a Null-Tron body.
Issue #45 is called "Bi-Centennial", and it seems it was in some way supposed to tie in to the US's bicentennial celebration...
...but unlike the Captain America, Dr. Strange, and even Black Panther stories, it's not at all clear how. More important to us is the fact that "Head" has a soul gem, and in fact tells us that there are six soul gems in existence.
Head suggest that both Mar-vell and Rick physically enter the gem so CM can revive Rick's mind (does that mean this is the Mind gem? Of course the idea that each infinity gem has a specialization was not developed.).
The thing turns out to be a ploy, though. By entering the soul gem, Rick and CM are somehow empowering both sides of the war. It turns out that General Head just wants peace, which he figures will be achieved when both sides of the war are completely destroyed. Meanwhile, Rick and Mar-vell are trying to destroy each other in the gem.
One of the soldiers, Rambu (who appears to be an Aakon, like the aliens shown in Captain Marvel #8), objects to General Head's plan...
...and Fawn appears, leading him into the gem where they are able to defuse the fight between Rick and Mar-vell.
Just like the founding of the United States, right?
Bicenntenial stuff aside, the first three issues in this arc are fine. Issue #42 was a disaster, but the series has recovered. The idea is that the Supreme Intelligence is sending Captain Marvel and Rick through a variety of challenges in order to soften them up for a fight with him (and that's assuming the Intelligence doesn't have an ulterior motive). So it's all reasonably decent. And judging from the prologue/teaser at the end of issue #41 we seem to be on track in terms of Englehart and Milgrom's plans. But in the lettercol for issue #45, even though the letters are generally positive (aside from complaints that Milgrom's art is getting sketchier and that the story has too many drawn out mysteries), there's this:
Frankly... there's a time to hang loose, and a time to tighten up... and Steve and Al have come to the conclusion that their present method of preparing these epics has gotten a little too loose. See, Steve lives in Berkeley, and Al lives in Queens. And so, though they run up outrageous phone bills every sixty days, they never see each other. That, they've declared, has led to things getting a little out of hand when they tried to co-plot this series.... Thus, starting next issue, they're going back to the traditional format of Steve handling the plotting and Al handling the artwork.
That said, Englehart is actually gone with issue #46, with Chris Claremont getting full writing credits (but according to Englehart's website, Claremont is actually working off a Milgrom/Englehart plot). Claremont is billed as the continuing writer, but this is his only issue. And he wraps up the Supreme Intelligence plot.
Captain Marvel and Rick, with Fawn and Rambu in tow, head back to Hala. But the Supreme Intelligence preemptively strikes, pulling Mar-vell and Rick to separate areas where each faces a version of Supremor in a physical body.
Rick is on a Kree Imperial Dreadnought called the Star of Vengeance, which it's said is where Mar-vell once served as a junior lieutenant. Mar-vell himself is on Hala.
The resultant fight is sort of like the classic prisoner's dilemma. The full strength of the Nega-Bands is needed to defeat a single physical Supremor, but if either Rick or Marv pull the full strength of the bands, the other will be too weakened to survive the fight against their Supremor.
There's also something about the millennium bloom of a flower...
Mar-vell sacrifices himself to let Rick win, and then tells Rick to use the controls on the Vengeance to trigger a solar flare that targets Hala...
...forcing the Supreme Intelligence to direct all the energy on the planet to a forcefield. Even with the forcefield, every living thing on Hala gets knocked unconscious, and all technology is shut down thanks to the redirection of energy to the shields. But Mar-vell has survived.
I've told you people before; if it's an early Claremont comic and there isn't a solar flare, ask for your money back. It's a fake.
Fawn turns out to be (or maybe is written off as?) a construct created by Rick, similar to the Golden Age super-heroes he created during the Kree-Skrull War. This time he was using the power of the Nega-Bands to create a perfect girlfriend for himself. Kinda creepy.
She is killed by Supremor, along with Rambu.
Captain Marvel decides that he'd like to leave space and go back to Earth now, please.
It's a totally fine ending to the story.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: So in last issue and this arc, Drax the Destroyer has been flying around, well, destroying things. We learn in issue #43 it's because Thanos has revived, and a footnote points us to Warlock #9. Now, i have my Starlin Warlock issues bundled together thanks to the way they were reprinted (stop me if you've heard this one before), and so i have Strange Tales #178-181, and Warlock #9-15, and Avengers annual #7 and Marvel Two-In-One annual #2 all in the same entry. The intended sequence would be that Thanos revives circa Warlock #9, then Drax goes crazy, appears in Captain Marvel #42-44, learns the location of Thanos, then appears in Warlock #15 where he attacks Thanos' minion Gamora. That's really it for Drax's appearances; he isn't involved in the final fight against Thanos in the two annuals. But Captain Mar-vell does appear in the annuals, and they occur after these Captain Marvel issues. So i have these issues before that big Starlin Warlock entry. And it really works fine. Because Thanos doesn't actually come back from the dead in Warlock #9. That's just when we find out that he's still alive (in fact, according to that story, Thanos never actually died, but i assume it was when he woke up that Drax got activated again). So you just have to assume that Thanos revived some time before Captain Marvel #42, and then Drax started going wild.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
The Supremor robot has several later appearances (although I think this is the last time we see the Intelligence using more than one of them.)
Posted by: Michael | May 27, 2013 8:42 AM
Regarding Drax knowing Thanos' location, there's the back-up from Logan's Run, which may have been intended to take place after this arc. Fawn could have implanted a one time knowledge of Thanos' location; not necessarily a restoration of his tracking ability.
But i was also wondering if there's a behind-the-scenes continuation of that confrontation. Because we see him attack Gamora's ship in Warlock #15, and then the next time we see Gamora in Avengers annual #7, she's dying among wreckage on a planet. You might think it was a direct continuation from the Drax attack, but she says Thanos attacked her. But it could be that Drax got himself mind-controlled by Thanos, and then was sent after Gamora.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 27, 2013 2:00 PM
Doesn't Warlock say that he absorbed her memories with her soul gem and she was killed by Thanos after she escaped Drax?
Posted by: Michael | May 27, 2013 2:20 PM
Oh, you're right. Gamora's confrontation with Thanos is shown a little later in the Avengers annual, in a retelling by Warlock. Should have re-read it all the way through.
Oh well, i still think the Logan's Run back-up can take place after this arc.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 27, 2013 2:26 PM
Nice looking art by Milgrom. Especially those first few scans you posted.
Posted by: S | May 27, 2013 6:57 PM
Jo Duffy has a letter in #43 and Ralph Macchio in #45.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 25, 2013 6:42 PM
Actually, on his site, Englehart states that he and Milgrom did, in fact, plot #46 uncredited.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | June 24, 2015 2:56 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | June 24, 2015 7:02 PM
In one panel in #44, the Null-Trons are called Null-Troids.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 25, 2016 1:13 AM
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