Marvel Spotlight #9
Issue(s): Marvel Spotlight #9
As for Captain Universe, it's with these issues that we really see the potential of the concept. In the Micronauts, a lot of trippy collective-power cosmic stuff was being thrown around, so the real idea behind Captain Universe got a little muddled. It's here that the "hero that could be you!" concept really becomes clear. The idea is that anyone in need or in a position to right a wrong can temporarily inherit the Uni-Power and become Captain Universe. So these three issues tells stories about unrelated ordinary (i.e., not already super-powered) people who become Captain Universe to solve a problem. There is a ton of potential in that idea; you can construct almost any story imaginable with that premise, from simple human stories to anything in the crime/revenge genre (i've made comparisons to the Brian Azzarello/Eduardo Risso series 100 Bullets before) to big cosmic stories. The Mantlo/Ditko team probably wasn't the team to sell the idea to a mass audience, but the concept does manage to stick around.
This first issue gives us a little bit of a bridge instead of just dumping us directly into the "anybody can be Captain Universe!" situation. It starts with Raymond Coffin, who was Captain Universe in the Micronauts book. The Uni-Power tries to go to him again, but Raymond has a heart attack instead.
When his son Steve goes to visit him in the hospital, he encounters a creepy brainwashed nurse.
And she's not alone in her creepiness.
Even Steve's father begins to be affected, and at that point Steve becomes Captain Universe.
The light from his transformation drives the shadows away from his father, and then he goes to fight the shadow-ized people. Since he's a teenaged boy, his use of the Captain Universe powers manifest in ways that are totally rad, like creating nun-chucks...
...and a skateboard.
The kid is actually really annoying.
This isn't the last time in these three issues that Mantlo will make a nod to Ditko's co-creation, Spider-Man.
Steve finds that the shadow people are being controlled by a Mister E.
His goal is to prepare the Earth for an invasion from the Shadowverse.
As far as i can tell, these shadow people are unrelated to the ones that we saw in Marvel Spotlight #4. It would be cool to tie them both together under the Warlord Kaa somehow. But in any event the shadow people are a good way to emphasize Ditko's cosmic weirdness without him having to draw a lot of regular people.
Steve's final totally radical toy is a lightsaber.
But even that doesn't stop Mister E, and Steve winds up on a shuttle heading towards the sun where the Negatron Whatever is going to be deployed. So Steve deploys his Univision, and no it's not a Spanish-language television network.
Then he flies out of the ship and turns it around so the sun destroys Mister E.
The power of Captain Universe, or at least people's perception of it, changes from issue to issue. Here, obviously, Steve is surviving in space close enough to the sun that he ought to be getting sucked in by its gravitational field, if not simply melting. But in future issues we'll see people worried about dodging bullets. That's not inconsistent writing; the Uni-Power either grants varying levels of powers or people who inherit the power don't necessarily know what they're capable of.
When it's over, Steve hears the voice of the Uni-Power, telling him that it's moving on.
Who will be Captain Universe next? It could be you!
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Warlord Kaa came to my mind as well, just like when you covered Spotlight #4. I wouldn't have been surprised if you told me a random issue of West Coast Avengers had been devoted to tying all these shadow people together :P
That panel where the top of that guy's head has changed into a shadow is actually really quite creepy.
Posted by: Berend | March 2, 2015 5:11 PM
"it's worth mentioning that this means he's penciled 5 of the 11 issues of Marvel Spotlight (and the first three issues by Pat Broderick were left over from the cancelled Captain Marvel series), so this almost seems like it was meant as a home for 80s Ditko"
Posted by: Michael | March 2, 2015 9:11 PM
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