Marvel Comics Presents #150-151
Issue(s): Marvel Comics Presents #150, Marvel Comics Presents #151
This is a two-part story called "A Battle of the Sexes". The first part is by Ann Nocenti & Steve Lightle, who had previously done some Typhoid Mary stories for Marvel Comics Presents, one guest-starring Wolverine and one with Ghost Rider. This story also features Typhoid Mary and Wolverine, and it swaps in Vengeance for Ghost Rider, and it adds Daredevil. Steve Lightle does not participate in the second issue. But Steve Lightle will return (without Nocenti) to some of the characters introduced here on the final issue of Marvel Comics Presents (#175).
The story begins with Typhoid Mary having escaped from a mental institution only to shack up with a judge for three days. The judge calls the institution's doctors, hoping that they'll retrieve her discreetly without causing a scandal. One of the doctors, Dr. Hunt, also turns out to be "in love" with Mary, but his partner manages to sedate her and they bring her back to the hospital.
Meanwhile, "elsewhere", we see a group of special kids - one blue and in a tank of water, one with "implants", and more - at an institute called the Fortress.
They are participants in a program run by a Dr. Zachary Hoffner. The kids have been led to believe that they live in the future, and the arrival of the woman, Ms. Aranda Charboneau puts that in jeopardy. Charboneau has also brought a new student for Hoffner.
In the next "act", it seems like Wolverine is considering attending Cyclops and Jean Grey's wedding (e.g. he's wearing a bow tie) but instead he decides to go on a mission that he's promised Professor X that he'd do. And he needs Typhoid Mary to do it.
So he goes and takes her out of her hospital, with very little resistance from Hunt.
Wolverine takes Mary to the Fortress. While Wolverine waits outside, Mary manages to infiltrate...
..and she finds Wolverine's target - Jessie, the girl that Charboneau just brought in. Jessie, an empath, identifies Mary as "Bloody Mary" which dovetails with something the two doctors were talking about at the beginning of this story, which is that Typhoid Mary's split-personalities were splintering into a third. As Bloody Mary, Typhoid uses telekenisis to construct a new armored costume for herself.
But the Fortress' defenses are triggered and both Mary and Jessie go down. But Jessie senses Mary's chaotic thoughts and sends out a request for help to Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil. Since Ghost Rider is dead, the request is "bounced" to Vengeance. Vengeance arrives before Daredevil.
Despite Wolverine's request, Vengeance insists on getting in a Misunderstanding Fight. Meanwhile, Daredevil arrives, bypasses them, and gets into a fight with Aranda Charboneau, who is now in costume and calling herself Steel Raven.
In addition to being a ninja or whatever, Steel Raven attacks with a psychic pulse that destabilizes DD.
Meanwhile, the Fortress is doing tests on Typhoid Mary, but she escapes in a telekinetic burst and flees with Jessie to a women's shelter. Steel Raven is contacted about the escape, so she breaks off the fight with Daredevil. Daredevil follows. Wolverine and Vengeance also sense that Mary has escaped, so they end their own fight.
At the shelter, Mary finds out that Jessie is really a boy (being an empath, he just "felt like a girl" around Mary and, presumably, Steel Raven earlier). It makes Mary mad.
Mary steals a bunch of files from the shelter, with the idea of avenging all of the abused women there. She leaves without Jessie. She goes around, beating up abusive men for at least a couple of days (and briefly reverts to her innocent Mary persona for a bit). Then Steel Raven catches up with her. Raven has been having doubts about her association with the Fortress and its experiments on children, so she and Typhoid Mary form a truce (we are into the Fred Harper art now).
Vengeance bursts onto the scene, and Typhoid reverts to Mary again. Confused by the inconsistent emanations of evil coming from her and unable to punish Mary's bad personas without harming Mary, Vengeance relents. But this tips Mary off to the fact that she's got a new personality.
Mary is allowed to wander off, and she turns back into her Typhoid persona and goes back to hunting down abusive men.
But when a codependent female victim defends her husband, Typhoid decides to just go find Daredevil and beat him up instead. She telepathically reaches out to him, but when Daredevil arrives, he sees Wolverine coming up from behind and attacks him.
Wolverine tells Daredevil about Mary's third persona...
...but by the time they stop fighting, Mary is gone. Wolverine goes after her alone (Daredevil says "just don't kill her").
Wolverine and Mary have a gender vs. class debate (they should look into intersectionality).
Wolverine tries to convince Mary that Dr. Hunt has been the problem all along, which is an odd tactic.
Steel Raven shows up and attacks Wolverine, telling Mary to run and that she owes her one. Mary runs into Jessie again. Some interesting transgender ideas here.
Jessie seems to reach into Mary and find a "sane" fourth personality.
Mary Walker goes and confronts Dr. Hunt.
She ensures that Hunt is arrested for rape.
She then speaks to the media, saying that she's going to continue hunting down abusive men.
She leaves with Jessie. I guess it does say that Wolverine's mission wasn't actually to bring Jessie to Professor X; it was just to investigate him/her. So Wolverine leaving Jessie with Mary - while still not seeming very smart! - doesn't mean that he failed his mission. But i don't think Jessie will appear again.
It's nice to have two issues fully dedicated to a story. It gives Ann Nocenti more room to flesh out what she's trying to do with Typhoid than the past Marvel Comics Presents stories. And it definitely feels more natural than the typical 8 page nonsense. It almost feels like something that you'd expect in an Epic special; something experimental and "artsy". Even the inclusion of Wolverine and the like don't make the story feel overly commercial because of the way they are used. Like most of Nocenti's stuff, it's more admirable for its ambition than its execution, and there are a lot of decisions that only make sense in the dream-fugue world of Nocenti. But it's an interesting use of Marvel Comics Presents; a nice break from the usual format.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Seems to take place circa X-Men #30. Takes place while Ghost Rider is "dead". Typhoid Mary next appears in Spectacular Spider-Man #213-214 (it's not currently covered on this site but it's written by Nocenti and Typhoid Mary has the Bloody Mary persona and is hunting down abusive men). For Daredevil, the MCP have this between Daredevil #325-326.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAllegra, Blue Shark, Bombadier, Daredevil, Munchkin, Sidney Joern, Steel Raven, Typhoid Mary, Vengeance, Wolverine, Zachary Hoffner
I enjoyed this story. As with a lot of Ann Nocenti's writing, even though the execution was a bit flawed, it nevertheless was genuinely thought-provoking. A few years ago I got these two issues autographed by Nocenti, and subsequently re-read them for the first time since they had been published, which let me to write an in-depth analysis on my blog...
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 13, 2018 9:05 PM
"But this seems to tip Mary off for the first time to the fact that she's got multiple-personality disorder."
This would seem to suggest that this is the first time Mary's learned about any of her personalities, which would contradict at least some of her past appearances. But the scan that follows seems to have Mary only learning specifically about the Bloody Mary persona ("I thought there was only one other...").
Although the "sane" Mary is specifically referred to as a fourth Mary (and her appearance specifically doesn't preclude the appearances of the other personalities, which is why that Spectacular story comes after this and not during it), it feels like Nocenti learned about the relative success of PAD's Merged Hulk and wanted to Nocenti it up for her own character. The "sane" Mary is presented as possessing at least some of the goals, and perhaps even the memories, of the more sadistic, murderous personalities, while being as seemingly respectable a member of society as the "innocent" Mary. Strip out the Nocentisms and it's possible to see this almost as a response to the original Merged Hulk story, showing a more realistic take on integrating multiple personalities than what Doc Samson did while still creating an "integrated" Mary that's still separate from her established personalities and the new one introduced for this story (inadvertently foreshadowing how the Merged Hulk would be retconned as just another split personality).
Posted by: Morgan Wick | April 13, 2018 11:54 PM
According to Steve Lightle, he created Steel Raven and the New Genix kids. They were supposed to be an ongoing series within Marvel Comics Presents but Marvel Comics Presents got cancelled.
Posted by: Michael | April 14, 2018 1:05 PM
@Morgan. Yeah, she's just reacting to learning about the new Blood Mary personality. I've revised my comment. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 15, 2018 1:46 PM
Was Vengeance well received back in the day? The number of stories that he is featured in seems to imply so.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 15, 2018 3:11 PM
Not really. He was Ghost Rider's replacement for a few months, so he starred in both Ghost Rider and Marvel Comics Presents, and when Ghost Rider took back his title, Vengeance kept appearing in Marvel Comics Presents until it was cancelled. It was more Marvel trying to make him into the Next Big Thing than the readers actually liking him.
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2018 4:34 PM
I remember wolverine wearing that costume once in the animated series during the sanctuary 2 parter episodes.
Posted by: rzerox21xx | April 16, 2018 1:30 PM
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