Issue(s): Spellbound #1, Spellbound #2, Spellbound #3, Spellbound #4, Spellbound #5, Spellbound #6
This is a prestige format book with thicker paper and brighter colors and a $1.50 cover price per issue. The normal 22 page count. Issue #6 is double-sized and $2.25.
Except for a New Mutants appearance in issue #4, the book is on the fringes of the Marvel universe, although the characters will appear again in Marvel Comics Presents. The series features really nice art from Terry Shoemaker, who has a real Walt Simonson thing going.
The basic set-up has the demon lord Zxaxz (no relation to Zzzax) ending a failed attempt at rebellion from slaves. There's the feral Snaarl, whose people represent chaos, and the fairy Snugg, who represents order. Zxaxz is a "Spellbinder", and claims that the reason he conquers other dimensions is to protect them from "The Other", another Spellbinder even "madder" than he. Snaarl had attempted to steal his "conversion bands" and use them to summon a third Spellbinder who has been located on Earth. The conversion bands amplify the energy of a master of order and chaos, and since Snaarl and Snugg's people each only represent one half of the requirements, they weren't able to use the rings.
Zxaxz destroys Snaarl's planet as punishment for his rebellion, wiping out his race, and then decides to take care of the Spellbinder on Earth to nip any further resistance in the bud. But Snugg and Snaarl don't give up and give the bands another try, this time combining their strength to meet the order and chaos requirements. They also steal Zxaxz's Cloak of Flight.
The Spellbinder on Earth is Erica Fortune, who teaches about conjunctions in English 101 at New York University (to ESL students? I hope?). A colleague, Andrew King, has equipment to test paranormal abilities, and he's determined that Erica has psychic abilities. She worries that someone will think she's a mutant, but Andrew's theory is that all humans have latent paranormal abilities and Erica is just able to tap hers for some reason. Andrew and Erica have a romantic interest in each other, but it's complicated by the "frivolous" but more outgoing Charli, a rival for Andrew's attention. Erica is taking care of a younger brother, Roy, and sister, Sally. The sister can't read and the brother is into rough stuff, like stink bombs and break-dancing.
Erica has received a grant to to go England for the summer, but she's unsure about leaving her siblings behind, even though Andrew offers to have them stay at his parents' dude ranch.
Snaarl and Snugg arrive while Andrew is telling Erica about the grant, but they're followed by Zxaxz.
Snaarl and Snugg aren't sure who the Spellbinder is, so there's a struggle while they toss the artifacts to various people.
But it eventually comes out that Erica is the Spellbinder.
And even though she doesn't really know what she's doing, she uses the Chaos Ring and faces off against Zxaxz.
And she manages to disintegrate him. She next tries out the Order Ring...
...and the Cloak.
Zxaxz's book, which would allow Snaarl and Snugg to return home, is destroyed, though. As is Zxaxz's crown.
By the beginning of the next issue, Spellbinder is disintegrating bank robbers.
When the police object to that, she tries to restore the bank robber, but accidentally recreates Zxaxz instead.
Turns out this is just a dream, though!
If the reference to mutants in issue #1 wasn't enough, we have definite confirmation in issue #2 that this series was meant to be part of the Marvel universe.
There's also a pretty explicit nod to the fact that Spellbinder represents a new female super-hero in a world that doesn't have enough.
Zxaxz had said that using the artifacts corrupted him, but Erica doesn't seem to be aware of that. And Snugg is ensuring that Erica continues to use the bands so that she can eventually restore the worlds destroyed by Zxaxz, despite the danger to Erica personally. Being an agent of "Order" doesn't mean she's "good". She's even happy to have Zxaxz restored for real so they can use his crown to get home.
Snaarl is less "logical" so he's not on board with the idea. But not enough to tell Erica yet, so he leaves the apartment and luckily runs into Roy and helps him fight off some rival break-dancers. And that leads to stuff like this.
Meanwhile, Snugg continues to manipulate Erica into using her powers and even gets her to create a costume for herself.
The bands are already corrupting her.
I mean destroying Marvel comics?! That's just wrong!
After he's done break-dancing, Snaarl spills the beans on Snugg, but it's too late and Erica re-forms Zxaxz.
Spellbinder manages to fight Zxaxz off, but doesn't disintegrate him again. We next see him in issue #3, playing Godzilla.
Except Godzilla never did stuff like this.
But he's still afraid to confront Erica directly. Erica, meanwhile, is trying to keep her own power-mad tendencies under control. And Roy's band gets a call from Lila Cheney's manager because, now that Snaarl is the drummer, he wants them to be the opening act.
Roy's artistic integrity is too strong, however, and he refuses the gig, to the disappointment of his bandmates.
Zxaxz attacks again...
...and Spellbinder again drives him off.
Issue #4 is our guest appearance issue, with Lila Cheney having a similar mindset to Roy.
Note also unnamed Guido/Strong Guy appearance in the scene above.
Some of the New Mutants - Cannonball, Magik, and Warlock - are hanging out with Lila, and something triggers Magik's soulsword, and Warlock detects something too, but when they go to investigate they find nothing.
Thanks to Lila's manager/promoter's insistence, Roy's band is booked for the concert despite his refusal, and his bandmates convince him to do the gig.
They play the show, and Lila says they were "awesome". Then Zxaxz attacks during Lila's set. He's really looking for Erica, but she's in hiding.
At least the New Mutants are on hand to help.
You'd think Magik would be a significant threat for Zxaxz, but the fear is that he'll be able to tap into Limbo and control it.
Instead, Lila teleports everyone, including the audience, away from Zxaxz.
When they return home, Zxaxz is gone.
Roy has been demonstrating some telekinetic abilities...
...so the New Mutants invite him to go back to the school with them. He declines, since Zxaxz is still on the loose. For some reason the New Mutants don't seem to think it's worth sticking around to help any further, so they go home.
Erica is barely in issue #4, just enough to remind us that she's still losing control of herself thanks to the corruption of the bands. She tries to stop wearing the bracelets, but finds that she's put them back on in her sleep in issue #5, and later realizes that she has their powers now even when she's not wearing them. She's still been in hiding while Zxaxz continues to torment Roy and his friends. But with the revelation that she's not able to give up her powers, Andrew tells her that Zxaxz has actually been killing people in pursuit of her, and she decides to go after him. She's still corrupted, though.
She confronts Zxaxz, and agrees to give up the bands...
...but it's a trick, because the power is in her now.
Roy tries to get in on the fight too, but he's not in Zxaxz's league.
Erica seemingly manages to keep control of herself and also defeat Zxaxz...
...but he is able to use the crown to restore himself, and the fight continues.
Erica continues to lose control of herself, and so she gives the bands to Roy so that he can destroy both her and Zxaxz while they are fighting. He hesitates, though.
Meanwhile, The Other observes the confrontation from afar.
And decides to get involved.
This forces a temporary team-up between Erica and Zxaxz, with Zxaxz fighting the Other's giant apprentice.
During that fight, Sally demonstrates psychic powers, too.
Roy is eventually able to defeat the Other's apprentice, and then Erica and Zxaxz force the Other through a portal, trapping themselves as well. The bands are left with Roy, and Sally tells him that he's the new Spellbinder now. Snaarl and Snugg remain on Earth with the remaining Fortune kids.
It's a decent sorcery type story with some cringeworthy goofy moments, like Snaarl drumming. And a bit repetitive with Zxaxz being the only threat until the Other shows up at the end of the series. But it's got nice art and some weird characters for Shoemaker to play with. I am a bit surprised by the ending. After establishing Erica as the Spellbinder, Louise Simonson ultimately has her fail to retain control of herself and she has to be removed from the playing field, leaving Roy as the Spellbinder. You'd think you'd want to leave things set up in such a way that if the series was a hit, Erica could continue as the Spellbinder. It doesn't really matter, though, since we won't see these characters again until 1993's Marvel Comics Presents #138.
By the way, Marvel (or actually Atlas at the time) put out a Strange Tales style comic in the 1950s called Spellbound but there's no direct connection.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP has the New Mutants appearing here between New Mutants #62-63. I guess they couldn't stick around here because they had to get back in time for Doug's funeral.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showCannonball, Lila Cheney, Magik, Roy Fortune, Sally Fortune, Snaarl, Snugg, Spellbinder, Strong Guy, Warlock, Zxaxz
I'm surprised any writer had the nerve to include this much break-dancing in a series after the negative reaction to the Justice League's Vibe.
Posted by: Michael | June 20, 2014 7:23 PM
"Chemical" refers to the color folks at the printers.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 21, 2014 4:54 PM
@ Michael - To be fair (as a big collector of JLA at the time), Vibe didn't just breakdance. He was also a ridiculous stereotype and had the worst costume ever seen in a comic book.
fnord - based on the first appearance of Warlock, I would say that was supposed to be Doug and they were told after the fact that Doug was dead and couldn't be used so they re-lettered it to make it be Warlock, but I've never actually read these so I don't know if the other panels with Warlock look less like Doug. Either way, yeah, the placement really doesn't work at all.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 27, 2015 10:30 PM
That's very possible, Erik. The clean-cut blond guy does disappear a panel after that when Warlock-as-Warlock is first shown, but that could be a coincidence. Later Warlock disguises himself in something more punky. But yeah, that could be the remnants of Doug in the blue sweater.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 28, 2015 8:14 AM
@fnord12: Lila's promoter is once again mentioned (previously in New Mutants Annual #1 and known by Bobby's father, hmm Hellfire Club).
Posted by: Nathan Adler | July 28, 2015 4:05 PM
Mike Carey had a mini-series at Marvel many, many years after this titled Spellbinders.
Posted by: Chris V | February 14, 2017 1:37 AM
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