The Transparent Fox:
Characters Appearing: Dr. Strange, Geatar, Nebula, Silver Surfer, Thunderstrike, War Machine, Wong
Secret Defenders #9-10
Issue(s): Secret Defenders #9, Secret Defenders #10
...or give them strange anatomy.
Even with that, though, these issues are an improvement over Roy Thomas, next issue's Starblast tie-in excepted. These two issues are just a straight adventure story, which is really just what this Marvel Team-Up-in-disguise book needed to be. And then the issues following Starblast put a clever twist on the book's premise.
Silver Surfer goes to Dr. Strange for help. He's located Nebula, who is gathering forces on Mars' moon Phobos, in preparation for an attack on Titan. Nebula has managed to give the Surfer the slip before, so he wants help from Dr. Strange. But not direct help. Since Nebula - who the Surfer describes as a "master strategist" - once held the Infinity Gauntlet, the Surfer fears that she's learned enough about anyone involved in the Gauntlet conflict too well, and would be able to out-play them. The Surfer himself isn't willing to forgo another attempt to capture Nebula, but he wants Dr. Strange to recruit help for him that Nebula wouldn't be familiar with.
Dr. Strange summons War Machine and Thunderstrike. I guess the idea is that these are "new" heroes, and of course we also get the joke about how they're both copycat heroes. The second point seems to defeat the purpose of the Silver Surfer's request, though. If Nebula is prepared for Iron Man and Thor, then she could plausibly be prepared to fight War Machine and Thunderstrike too. And then there's the fact that the "Thor" that was in Infinity Gauntlet really was (a pre-jacket and ponytail) Thunderstrike (this is sort-of acknowledged when Thunderstrike tells the Surfer, "we've met before, sort of. But that'd be a long story and... well..."). This isn't to say that the characters have the exact same powers, and certainly they have different tactics. But you'd think it'd be safer to just recruit two totally new heroes. On the other hand, i suppose there just aren't that many heroes that didn't appear in Infinity Gauntlet, especially if you eliminate teenagers like the New Warriors. And i guess we should count our blessings that Strange didn't recruit, like, Venom and Siege. And ultimately this is Marvel Team-Up logic and we shouldn't think about it too hard.
Dr. Strange transports the trio to Phobos, where they have to contend with a horde of Nebula's mercenaries. The Surfer leaves War Machine and Thunderstrike to deal with the grunts while he flies ahead to confront Nebula directly. Which seems like the wrong move if the whole point of bringing War Machine and Thunderstrike was to use them as wild cards. And sure enough, Nebula and her number one mate Geatar are prepared for the Surfer.
There's a fun conversation about being copycat heroes while War Machine and Thunderstrike are fighting their way through the goons.
Nebula straps the Surfer to a mega bomb that she intends to launch at Titan. When War Machine and Thunderstrike make it through the goons, Nebula explains that the bomb is powerful enough to destroy all of Titan. The Surfer himself may survive the explosion, but he'll be the only one. And then what follows is a bungled adaptation of the great line from Goldfinger ("No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die").
Thunderstrike and War Machine are kept busy with a pair of giant bodyguards (whose nerve endings have been disconnected so they don't feel pain)...
...but then they change tactics, leaving both of the goons (and the remains of Nebula's army) to Thunderstike while War Machine goes after Nebula's ship. And i said Grindberg's art isn't as good as it could be, but sometimes it's pretty awesome.
War Machine tosses Geatar into deep space...
....but he's too late to stop the bomb launch so he leaves Nebula to chase it. War Machine catches up to the bomb and frees the Surfer, but remains with the bomb to fully defuse it. The Surfer goes after Nebula.
Once she's captured and the bomb is defused, the Surfer and War Machine head back to Thunderstrike, worried about having left him to face so many troops alone. But he's fine.
I said that Grindberg's art was rushed, but i guess it's actually pretty consistent in its weirdness. For example, the Surfer always has a weird hump on his back which also makes his neck look super long.
But when combined with the coloring (by John Kalisz), the art does sometimes have a Mike Mignola feel. And in any event this is just a decent adventure story. I like Nebula being described as a master strategist. In truth, we don't see a lot of that. Her main assets is having an inexhaustible hoard of cannon fodder, and it's unclear if her motives here are anything beyond 'Titan was the place that locked me up, so I'm going to destroy it'. But she is prepared for the Surfer, both with the Synaptic Disruptor and with the bomb that potentially could have killed him, and she's pretty good about keeping Thunderstrike and War Machine occupied. I still would have liked to have seen some more explicit examples, both of her preparedness and how Thunderstrike and War Machine being wild cards disrupted it. Still, after eight issues of Roy Thomas' too-cute scripting, i'm happy for something straight.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Dr. Strange's appearance places this before Siege of Darkness. Next issue is a Starblast tie-in which explicitly takes place after Siege of Darkness. Geatar will be rescued next issue after floating in space for what can be said to be an indefinite period (he's about to run out of oxygen when he's rescued, but we don't know how much oxygen he had to start with). The scene in this issue with War Machine giving advice to Thunderstrike about how to cope with being a copycat hero doesn't necessarily imply placement (e.g. they may not have had time to have this conversation in Terminatrix Objective, or it may just not have come up).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I really need to rewatch Linkara's episode on the first of these two issues, but I know he isn't a Thunderstrike fan. But hey, serviceable battle of bigger guns vs. Nebula isn't too bad a premise on paper.
Posted by: Ataru320 | March 13, 2017 11:55 AM
Those twin bodyguards remind me that the Blood Brothers were on Mars last time we saw them. They might have found a way off by now, but it's funny to think Nebula could have swooped down to the surface and picked up some tough Thanos minions.
Posted by: Mortificator | March 13, 2017 12:20 PM
Didn't we JUST do this with Rhodey and Eric (had that "copycat miniseries" come out by then?) Also can War Machine REALLY be considered "new" or a "novice" hero at this point? He founded the WCA after all, and has experience (as oppose to Thunderstrike the "Everyman Hero.")
Posted by: Jon Dubya | March 13, 2017 6:37 PM
And with someone who claimed to be Nebula at one point even!
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 13, 2017 7:51 PM
Nowadays whenever I see this 1990s version of Nebula in comic books I immediately think Karen Gillan.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 26, 2017 3:46 PM
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