Marvel Monsters: Monsters on the Prowl #1
Issue(s): Marvel Monsters: Monsters on the Prowl #1
(Of the other two books, Devil Dinosaur, which i don't have, seems to involve the Hulk in a time travel story, and Where Monsters Dwell just follows up stories to some of the lesser monsters of the age.)
Setting these issues in the Silver Age is an interesting choice, because it helps answer the question of "what happened to all the monster from the Monster Age?". It's not a question that Stan Lee thought to answer at the time since what i call the Monster Age was only retroactively brought into Marvel Universe continuity. Roger Stern's Monster Hunters story in the Marvel Universe book implied that the early 60s monster surge was part of a plot by the Deviants that was thwarted in that story. But Monsters on the Prowl and Fin Fang 4 show the Marvel heroes being more directly involved. In Fin Fang 4 the Fantastic Four capture Googam during the Silver age, and Elektro, Gorgilla, and Fin Fang Foom some indefinite time later (which is good because Foom, at least, has a lot of additional appearances to contend with) and shrink them down to human size and try to re-integrate them into society. It's definitely a silly, whimsical story. But it's cool to see the early FF fighting Googam.
This issue starts by showing us that the Collector has captured a large number of monsters...
...but he's attacked by the Mole Man...
(Click to monster-size)
...and the creatures get loose (or, i guess, go on the prowl).
It's said that the Mole Man and the Collector were picked up by the Canadian police. I find that hard to believe; i'm writing that off as an being an inaccurate report.
Meanwhile, Bruce Banner shows up at the Baxter Building. Mr. Fantastic is performing an experiment in the Negative Zone, but the Thing is (very causally) monitoring him from Earth.
In the best character moment in the issue, the Thing tries reminiscing with Banner, but realizes he doesn't have anything in common with the scientist; only with his alter-ego, the Hulk.
Then the "civil defense alarm" alerts Ben to the fact that the monsters are attacking the city. All the other heroes are out of town...
...so the Thing deliberately triggers Banner's transformation.
Luckily, unlike just about every other time Banner transforms, the Hulk isn't immediately enraged and in a fighting mood, and he agrees to help.
(Click to monster-size)
The Thing also calls in Giant-Man and the Beast.
It's supposed to be a "good monsters vs bad monsters" theme, but Pym objects to being included in the monster theme, and i agree.
Who's this flying bug? A metamorphisized Grottu? Or just a random member of the Collector's collection?
After the monsters are defeated, the Beast works with Mr. Fantastic and creates a two-way portal to the Negative Zone, which sucks all the monsters in and brings Reed out.
It's a cute story but of course i have some problems with it. The first is that the Negative Zone is a very dangerous place, and around the time that this issue is taking place, it was an especially unknown, mysterious, and deadly place. It's a brand new dimension, ferchrissake! The first time anyone went there, they were lost forever (and the MCP places this right after Fantastic Four #51). The Thing is way too flippant about the fact that Reed is in there this whole issue, and is very negligent in monitoring him. It's meant to be funny, but it falls flat.
The second is that everyone's way too chummy. In modern comics, all the heroes have been around each other for so long that they're very casual with each other. In early comics, even without the classic Misunderstanding Fight, whenever heroes met they were generally written as a little wary of each other. It's especially a problem with the Hulk, who was more or less a villain as far as the other characters were concerned. The Thing is way too buddy-buddy with him (in fact, the Thing was often threatened by the Hulk's superior strength and in a 'prove myself' mode when he was around).
Finally, and i know modern writers and editors complain when readers raise these issues, but it's clear that there wasn't a lot of care put into figuring out where this story fit into existing continuity for the characters appearing. I'm vaguely sympathetic to the fact that (i'm making this up) when writing a modern comic that has Spider-Man encountering Madame Masque, a writer isn't going to realize that Spidey once met Madame Masque before in a crowd scene in a random issue of Marvel Two-In-One, but when you're actually writing a story taking place in the past, and it's a story clearly designed to appeal to Silver Age nostalgia, a little more thought should be put into where it's supposed to fit into the existing canon. As you'll see in the Considerations section and Michael's comment, this issue is a bit of a disaster from that perspective.
As to the quality of the story, there's very little here. The Thing is wildly out of character, in my opinion, and generally speaking the other characters don't interact enough for it to be enjoyable. It's C level, pure fight fight fight stuff. The art is stylized, with the Hulk getting really distorted faces and everyone having giant chins. Nothing terrible, nothing great.
This issue also reprints "We Found the Ninth Wonder of the World" from Tales to Astonish #1. The credits say "Jack Kirby and Christopher Rule". A group of sailors help a professor find a colleague who's been working with animal growth hormones.
The neat part is that the guy considers bringing one of the giant creatures back to civilization for the fame and money, but unlike Carl Denham he actually thinks about the repercussions of bringing back an enormous animal and decides against it.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: If we take the Thing at his word when he's telling Banner that the other heroes are out of town, the Avengers are in Moscow and the X-Men are in "some jungle".
My first thought was that this took place during the original Red Guardian saga during Avengers #43-44, and the X-Men jungle reference probably referred to their fight with El Tigre during Uncanny X-Men #26. But Henry Pym becomes Goliath in Avengers #28 (with the limitations on his growing power; he's supposed to be stuck at ten feet). Prior to that he had been inactive for a period, but he was last seen wearing the weird modified version of his costume with the blue helmet in Tales to Astonish #69 (and that's how he's represented in a 'conceptual' scene in Avengers #22 as well). I suppose we have some leeway with his costume, but not with his powers; there's no way Pym was growing to the height shown in this issue after Avengers #28 (it's also worth noting that while Pym is never referred to by name - superhero or civilian - in this issue, he's billed as Giant-Man on the promo page). So that scraps the Red Guardian idea.
There's no other time that the Avengers are in Moscow that i'm aware of.
One possibility is that the Thing is simply lying to Banner. It's clear he (irrationally) wants to turn Banner into the Hulk, so maybe he's making up reasons why the other groups can't be called in (i didn't really love the idea that the FF would know the whereabouts of the X-Men at any given time during this period anyway). And despite what he says, the Thing is able to call in Giant-Man and the Beast, who arrive with considerable speed, lending credence to the idea that they weren't really away. Of course that raises the question of why the other members of their teams didn't also show up; i suppose there could have been some never-depicted story where the Beast was left behind. As for Pym, if he's Giant-Man at this time it's before he rejoins the Avengers, so it's just a question of him leaving the Wasp behind, which isn't implausible.
So what other factors are there? The Thing says that he hasn't seen Spider-Man in "weeks" but that shouldn't be an issue. The Human Torch and the Invisible Girl are at a charity event in LA.
When Banner arrives at the Baxter Building, he says that he's on the run from General Ross. I suppose that's a common enough occurrence that it doesn't require any special handling. But the Hulk is definitely talking like the "Hulk smash" version that first manifested in Tales to Astonish #78. He talks in the third person, calls the Thing "Rock Man", etc. Annoyingly, the Thing seems familiar with this version of the Hulk, suggesting a much later placement than right after Astonish #78. Also the Thing is aware that Bruce Banner is the Hulk. Rick Jones revealed the Hulk's secret ID in Tales to Astonish #77; as far as i know, the FF weren't aware of it prior to that.
As for the Collector, we're relatively safe. He first appeared in Avengers #28, but of course he's an Elder of the Universe. The Beast announces the Collector's involvement, and the Thing says he's never heard of him, but Giant-Man makes no comment. So from the Collector's perspective it could take place any time.
Obviously this has to take place after the Negative Zone is discovered in Fantastic Four #51. I really don't like it taking place so soon after its discovery since as i mentioned the Thing is so casual about Reed's visit there. Bruce Banner is also aware of what the Negative Zone is, and shocked that Reed is there by himself, which is nearly impossible at any point in the Silver Age; i would argue it isn't until Hulk #122-123 that Banner and Reed would have time to sit down together to compare notes on things like that. Actually, i guess i'm talking myself into placing it right after FF #51: if Reed had announced his discovery, it might have appeared in some newspaper headlines that Banner had seen on his way to the Baxter Building (although Fantastic Four #289 has Mr. Fantastic saying that he's deliberately kept the existence of the Negative Zone a closely guarded secret). The problem here is that if you go by Marvels #3, Attuma's flood in Avengers #26-27 happens before Galactus arrives on Earth in Fantastic Four #48-50, and Avengers #27 pretty much runs right into issue #28, which is when Pym becomes Goliath.
The MCP places this between Fantastic Four #51-52, Tales To Astonish #91-92, and Avengers #26-27. After banging my head against walls in all directions, i've accepted that placement as the best you're going to get. It takes place while Henry Pym is still Giant-Man and not Goliath (although he's in the wrong costume and it ignores the implication that he's been having problems with his size-changing for some time) (and it requires me to break up Avengers #28-29 from #26-27) and actually explains the Wasp's lack of appearance: she's coincidentally a prisoner of the Collector (too much of a coincidence, frankly). It takes place after the discovery of the Negative Zone (barely!). As for the Hulk, unfortunately he's got a long string of commitments from Tales to Astonish #78 through #91, so we've had to compress about a year's worth of stories into a short period of time. The one area where i'm breaking from the MCP is the Beast's appearance, which they have during Uncanny X-Men #27, after the X-Men are back from San Rico in issue #26. The problem with that is in Uncanny X-Men #24 there's a reference to Johnny Storm being in the Himalayas, which starts after Fantastic Four #54. We can't have X-Men #27 taking place between FF #51-52. We just have to ignore the "jungle" reference but we're already ignoring the "Moscow" reference so it seems ok.
Ugh. For a mildly entertaining story, this wasn't worth the headache.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
I always had problems with this story- in Avengers 28, Hank explains that he can only grow to one size and remain at it for a certain period of time or else he'll be stuck as a giant. And the dialogue makes it sound like it's been like this for quite some time. But FF 51 takes place very shortly before Avengers 26.
Posted by: Michael | December 22, 2011 12:03 AM
Thanks for the early comments on this; i was still trying to figure out placement. Let me know if you see any problems.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 22, 2011 1:45 PM
There were several giant bugs during the pre-FF Atlas era, so the flying one isn't Grottu.
"Tragg" is also part of the mid-1970s Gold Key comic "Tragg and the Sky Gods".
The reason for the bad continuity is the history of writer Steve Niles. Niles is predominantly known for doing violent, gore-filled horror stories for Arcane, Eclipse, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite, etc. He's got quite a rep in comics as the "monster guy", which is probably why he got this book. Unfortunately, he has very little history with Marvel, and he's one of those writers with no interest(bordering on hatred) of superheroes, making bad continuity a foredoomed conclusion.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 24, 2011 7:48 PM
i don't think we need to worry about the placement of this issue. having just read it, i've decided it's not going to be a problem anymore cause i'm throwing it away. besides being a disaster in terms of continuity, it's just poorly written. this is "free story in my cracker jack box" quality. it is on par with those free promotional things they stuff in goody bags to hand out during Reading Is Fundamental Week at the library. why would anyone consider it a real issue?
Posted by: min | December 20, 2013 9:09 AM
I placed this before the Hulk/Namor almost crossover because it has to take place before Avengers#28. I understand why you place it after Tales to Astonish#91 but that throws things out of whack for me. So I placed it earlier than that and ignore the fact that Banner's secret is public knowledge. I know Rick had already told Talbot the secret but it wasn't until later on that the public seemed to have knowledge of it.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 7, 2016 8:13 PM
I wouldnt say youve placed it wrong, but from contuinity, its a weird story to read. Mainly since all knows bruce banner is the hulk.
Posted by: Roy Mattson | July 2, 2017 4:11 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|