Issue(s): Morbius #2, Morbius #3, Morbius #4
But he now heads back to the US.
Meanwhile, Morbius' doctor friend, Jacob Weisenthal, tries to help Morbius find a solution to his condition. An interesting distinction is made in that Weisenthal is an general practitioner, more in the business of treating symptoms than finding miracle cures, so his ideas for what to do are less about curing Morbius of his quasi-vampirism and more about finding a way for him to live with it.
In terms of getting sustenance, Morbius rules out the blood bank because the blood is full of "preservatives and anticoagulants" that are toxic to him. I'm glad to hear that. With vampires having become much more sympathetic characters in recent years, i've always chaffed at the idea of good guy vampires getting their food from a blood bank. People give blood so that no one dies in the emergency room, not so Angel can make time with Buffy.
In any event, Weisenthal is fine with the idea of Morbius hunting criminals exclusively, because his father, a store owner, was critically injured by armed robbers.
It's a very Punisher-like scenario from Weisenthal's point of view. But a difference is that Morbius is remorseful about it. He even talks about God.
Rosenthal also promises to help him find a place to operate out of, and he offers to get him a job at a hospital for during day hours. For more immediate funds, Morbius robs a bank, but, in a demonstration his supposed scruples, he robs a bank where he himself has funds, and he leaves a check behind.
Killing unconvicted criminals for their blood? Ultimately that's ok. Robbing a bank? No, have to leave a check behind.
And now we see the boundaries around Morbius' kills. He finds someone with a gun mugging an old man. But then it turns out that the gun is a water gun, and the guy is just a junkie. So Morbius won't kill him. But he will pay the guy if he'll point him in the direction of someone else to feed on.
From a certain point of view, Morbius is just working his way up the chain and going after higher level criminals, while giving a poor junkie a chance to better himself. From another point of view, he's engaging in a quid quo pro, paying someone to turn in someone else that Morbius can feel morally ok with killing.
The junkie points Morbius to someone whose name is, in all sincerity, Dick Packer. We're told that he's total dirt, and the subsequent scene makes that clear.
That mouth line is pretty risque for a code book. I guess it can be interpreted multiple ways, but still.
In any event, it's definitely set up for us to be totally ok with Morbius killing this guy, and he does. He subsequently compares himself to the prostitute. He wonders why she's ok with her lot in life, and worries that he'll eventually accept his.
I feel like a sociologist might have more to say about the above scene, but i'll leave it be. Plotwise, what's important is that Morbius decides to not accept his fate, and, contra Weisenthal, he does go looking for the miracle cure. He remembers that he once was cured of his vampirism thanks to Spider-Man's blood, and he decides to try to replicate that. This makes perfect sense, although the first time it also took a bolt of lightning for the cure to take effect, and i imagine the whole point of that was that it was a one-in-a-million combination of just the right conditions, not something that should work any time. Still, i think it makes sense that Morbius try it again.
To get Spider-Man's attention, Morbius takes Dick Packer's corpse and throws it off the top of a building with a note telling Spider-Man to meet them where they met last time.
Now, Morbius has a perfectly reasonable request to make of Spider-Man. I think Spider-Man would be happy to donate some of his blood in order to cure Morbius. Heck, bring Morbius over to Doc Connors and let's all put our heads together, find the exact voltage to match the lightning bolt from the first time, account for Morbius' recent mutation, whatever. Unfortunately, Morbius' request coincides with the need for a splash page for issue #3, so it comes out like this:
And Spider-Man understandably reacts poorly to that.
This scene is interspersed with a flashback showing Weisenthal doing his best to explain why Morbius can fly, and also absolving him of his recent (pre-criminal exclusivity) murders on the grounds that he was clinically insane.
And now back to the fight.
It turns out that Simon Stroud is watching the fight from afar, through the scope of a sniper rifle. And he fires at both of them (with what will turn out to be tranq darts), knocking them out.
When he moves in close to kill Morbius, he is shot in turn.
This is the work of Dr. Paine, who got a mention in issue #1.
I really enjoy the art by Ron Wagner and Mike Witherby on these issues. For what it's worth, Wagner is credited with only "breakdowns" on issue #3, but i don't notice a major difference and they could have a breakdown/finishes relationship all along. Another thing i don't talk about a lot but which has an effect on the perception of the art at this time is the changes in coloring. There are two different colorists on these issues (Gregory Wright on #2-3 and Tom Smith on #4), but this is less about that and more about what seems to be a change in technology. This isn't new to this book; i've noted it on Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man series and it's become more prevalent. This is a $1.75 book, compared to a regular $1.25 comic that doesn't (yet) use these techniques. We're getting what i guess is a large palette of colors, and more vibrant colors. The colors also go out to the ends of the pages.
It's a little duller in my scans than the actual book.
Anyway, Paine just wants to study Morbius (but based on his name and what we see of his other "patients", it's not going to be a pleasant study). In describing Morbius, the idea that his flight power is based on a psionic ability is again stated, so i guess that is a point that Len Kaminski really wants to make clear.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man wakes up. Stroud is also still alive. He asks for Spider-Man's help in "sanctioning" Morbius. Spider-Man refuses but is groggy from the tranq dart, so he doesn't try to stop Stroud. Instead he uses a spider-tracer that he put on Morbius to locate him.
Dr. Paine is giving Morbius a tour of his facilities, showing him the wonderful experiments that he's involved in, like scooping out the brain of a patient with a brain tumor to see if the tumor can maintain "the autonomic bodily functions" on its own. I'm, uh, not sure if this guy is a real doctor. Paine also drops the news that Morbius leukemia, the whole reason Morbius wound up turning himself into a vampire, isn't really cured after all. This causes Morbius to flip out, and he starts shluupping Dr. Paine's weird orderly clones.
And also at least one of the patients.
Paine himself escapes, though. Actually, we can thank Spider-Man for that.
Now we get to see what i guess was the point of all the psionic talk. Morbius uses his psionic powers to hypnotize Spider-Man.
I originally thought the talk of psionics was to provide more (pseudo-)scientific explanations for Morbius' vampire-like attributes, but really this makes Morbius more like a real vampire.
We are told that this probably wouldn't have worked on Spider-Man if he wasn't already woozy from Stroud's tranq dart.
Anyway, that gets rid of Spider-Man. It solves the problem that i have with the Punisher, where Spider-Man continues to let him operate even though by his moral system the Punisher is a murderer. The hypnosis makes it so that Morbius can continue to operate in New York without us wondering why Spider-Man doesn't go after him.
The arc ends with Stroud deciding that he needs help against Morbius. We also see someone named Wayne observing as the police look at another murder, although this one features dismemberment.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: In and of itself, this story is context free for Spider-Man. I have it pushed back in publication time because i'm roughly following the MCP, although the MCP has it pushed back even further (i have it between Amazing Spider-Man #363-364 and before Infinity War, like the MCP, but some of the specifics of Spider-Man's appearances in other books is a little different). For Morbius, this is the first time that Morbius is seeing Jacob Weisenthal, and telling him that Martine is dead, after last issue. But we know that Morbius at least appeared in Ghost Rider #31 after last issue, and there's no telling where Dr. Strange deposited him after that or how long before Morbius decided to go to Weisenthal. So i'm not worried about the spacing between this and last issue. Twenty four hours take place between issues #2&3, but most of that time is covered in flashbacks in issue #3 so it works out to be direct continuation.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showBasilisk (Morbius foe), Detective Butler, Dr. Paine, J. Jonah Jameson, Jacob Weisenthal, Mary Jane Watson, Morbius, Simon Stroud, Spider-Man
I don't see what the problem is with vampires using blood banks. Vampires need blood to survive, and as long as they don't take enough to endanger people, using blood banks is a perfectly ethical way to obtain it.
Posted by: Michael | March 9, 2016 8:20 PM
Morbius can fly because he's tapping into the "psionic potential" of the human brain? Who came up with this theory, John Byrne? That was his explanation for practically any superpower that appeared to defy the laws of physics.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 9, 2016 8:58 PM
It is not a big problem from an ethical standpoint.
But it seems to me that Fnord meant that it is a problem for the narrative: a vampire that can survive indefinitely from a blood bank is definitely less sinister a character than one who can not.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 9, 2016 9:03 PM
Matt Wagner claimed to have rewritten several scenes in issues 2-8 but Len Kaminiski denied that. He also claims that he threw scenes in the background showing sexual acts or a movie marquee with "Anal Nuns" (which was changed to naughty nuns) that the Comics Code kept disallowing. More on that when you get to issues 5-8.
Posted by: Michael | March 9, 2016 10:21 PM
I think Michael understood my blood bank comment the way i meant it. My understanding is that a lot of blood banks struggle to provide the amount of blood that is needed. So if you've got a vampire leeching off of that, it seems problematic. Certainly no one goes to a blood bank to donate thinking that they're helping to sustain immortals. Vampires are by definition unnatural and there's nothing that says that they should get to sustain their unnaturally long lives if it means the deaths of other people. I think it's why vampires don't work well as heroes. How many people have already died so that Michael Morbius didn't have to die of leukemia? He should by all rights be dead already. Stealing from a blood bank is arguably more ethical than killing criminals, which is arguably more ethical than killing random people, but it all still seems wrong. I guess the current Baron Blood has it right. If you're going to be a good guy vampire, get yourself some volunteers willing to sustain you (ofc he kills criminals too).
I do agree that giving a good guy vampire the easy way out of taking from a blood bank hurts from a narrative point too, in that it takes away from what makes a vampire a vampire. It "defangs" them, so to speak, and makes them a more generic superhero.
And let me be clear that none of this is a direct criticism of the Morbius series, which, from what i've seen so far, is making an effort to explore the morality of Morbius' choices. There's a reason his book is part of the horror line, and Morbius is depicted as both tragic and monstrous, not a superhero.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 10, 2016 8:43 AM
Michael, you've got Matt Wagner confused with Ron Wagner.
The "Psionic Potential" explanation for superhuman acts actually dates all the way back to pulp SF.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 10, 2016 10:30 AM
I have to wonder if Wagner wasn't specifically instructed to make Morbius look as much like Neil Gaiman's Morpheus as possible.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 10, 2016 2:44 PM
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