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Where I Read: Captain Marvel, Part 6

March 22, 2017

Captain Marvel #4 (cover date August ’68)

“The Alien and the Amphibian!” by Roy Thomas (w), Gene Colan (p), and Vince Colletta (i).

This issue opens with an angst-filled Mar-vell sitting on his modest hotel bed. He is wearing is battle armor but, unsurprisingly at this point, is not wearing his life-giving helmet. Newspapers detailing his recent battle against the Super-Skrull are scattered about. What’s bothering the good Captain is that the Earth-men have come to see him as a hero, but the knowledge of his true mission weighs heavily upon him. For “it may one day be my hand which signals the fatal attack” upon the Earth, and that his “may be the voice which decrees its total destruction!”

Mar-vell doesn’t quite understand why he’s developed this thing that the “Earthmen call… conscience!” But he and Medic Una have always been different from their fellow Kree in this way. Eventually he reiterates that he is a loyal Kree, and will not let his feelings get in the way of the mission. To emphasize the point, he smashes a table to pieces.

The noise draws the attention of Hal, the nephew of the regular hotel clerk. As Mar-vell rushes to throw on a housecoat over his armor (hoping to conceal the “tell-tale bulge of [his] rocket-belt…!”), he pats himself on the back for erasing the dumb “C. Marvel” that he had originally and “thoughtlessly” written in the hotel guestbook. This apparently happened between issues and I, for one, am disappointed. I mean, we were treated to our hero dramatically sneaking down the hall to the bathroom in order to get some water, but they skip over his pulse-pounding trip to mess with the hotel registry? Regardless, through Hal’s conversation with his moody tenant we learn that the old clerk’s name is Jeremy Logan, and that he’s at the hospital and in a coma. Mar-vell flashes back to captmarvel-06-aMr. Logan’s fall during the previous ish and feels bad about himself all over again. Hal also passes along that the base is looking for Mar-vell’s civilian identity, Walter Lawson. As the nephew walks away, he thinks to himself that this Lawson dude is hiding something (was it that tell-tale bulge that gave it away, Hal?). This actually happens nearly every time a human interacts with Mar-vell in his human identity. A good spy he is not.

Our man of the Kree heads outside and gets into a cab, which of course happens to be the same cab he used last issue. Probably the only cab in town. The cabbie, Chester Fenton, recognizes his rider as the guy who wanted to be let out a half-mile away from the missile base. Mar-vell offers up the lame excuse that he wanted to “do some hiking… for my health!” once again demonstrating that he probably shouldn’t be the guy assigned to this, or any, spy mission.

captmarvel-06-bOver at the missile base, we get a reminder that Carol Danvers is the head of security and that she does not trust Lawson. We also learn that there is a secretive missile launch about to take place. This particular launch was kept hush-hush until just before blast-off because the eggheads are loading “various deadly bacteria” onto the missile. When the missile gets into space, the bacteria will be ejected and studied, in order to see how the primitive organisms interacts with cosmic rays. After Lawson arrives, they proceed with the launch and shoot the bacteria-laden missile off into orbit.

captmarvel-06-cUnfortunately for humanity, there’s an asshole sitting up in space by the name of Colonel Yon-rogg, and he knows all about the launch. Yonny uses his ship’s “atomic oscillotron” to send the missile back to Earth, where it lands off the northeastern coast of the United States. Over at the Cape, everyone is in a panic. It seems the missile is going to automatically eject the bacteria in 5 hours thanks to a backup mechanism, which was installed because they wanted to be able to retrieve some fancy photographic equipment from the rocket. Or something. Why not eject the equipment, and not the bacteria, in that case? It makes little sense to me, but hey, it’s an excuse to threaten the human race with deadly contagions. While the base personnel scramble to calculate where the missile landed, Mar-vell has already figured it out in his head. “Yet, I can’t tell General Bridges that!” Uh, why not? Worried that the jocks will beat you up if you look too smart? Lawson is supposed to be a rocket whiz; that’s why they invited you to be there, man.

captmarvel-06-dEveryone gets on a plane and flies over to an aircraft carrier that lies off the New York coast. As the search for the rocket commences, Namor the Sub-Mariner is spotted! Namor happens to be on his way over to the Fantastic Four HQ to seek their help with a foe named Destiny, which is apparently something that was going on over in his title. As he swims along, the aquatic half-breed thinks to himself that perhaps it is time to bury the hatchet with the surface-dwellers. I have a feeling that that particular sentiment won’t survive this story…

The Navy warns Namor to leave the area for his own safety, but the Sub-Mariner’s first thought is that the bacteria endangers NYC, and thus the FF, and thus his mission. Meanwhile, Yon-rogg informs Mar-vell that they are conducting an experiment to gauge the human’s defenses against germ warfare, and that the Captain is to ensure that no one touches the missile. “I had hoped to enlist the Atlantean’s aid to destroy those bacteria in time!” ponders the man of the Kree, “Yet, now I have no choice but to obey Yon-rogg’s orders – and see that, within the hour, the germs are released – and millions of Earthmen perish!” Well, that’s an interesting twist for our super-hero – forced to commit mass murder.

Captain Marvel dives into the water and orders Namor to leave the area. Namor, naturally, ignores being ordered around, so Mar-vell socks him in the jaw. The two trade blows, until Mar-vell is knocked over near the missile. The Kree attempts to blind the Atlantean with his uni-beam, but Namor disdainfully shrugs it off: “You would seek to blind me… with a weapon that is obviously but a child’s toy!” Ouch. Namor charges Mar-vell, who activates his jet-belt and propels them both out of the water and into the air.

Mar-vell calls on Namor to let the germs be ejected from the rocket and kill the Sub-Mariner’s air-breathing enemies. But Namor objects! “I am a prince of the blood – not a craven murderer!” It was just a ploy, anyway. The Captain dives back under the waves, followed by Namor. Namor beats Mar-vell to the rocket and removes the bacteria canister. Then Mar-vell comes up behind the Sub-Mariner and hits him, precisely knocking him back onto the rocket’s self-destruct mechanism. You’d think those sorts of things would be harder to activate. Like you would want your rocket or your lair or whatever to blow up just because someone tripped, would you? Luckily, the self-destruct has a 5-second delay, which is just enough time for both Atlantean and Kree to escape the explosion. And apparently the blast also destroyed the bacteria safely.

Namor swims away while Mar-vell takes to the air. “How ironic,” he thinks to himself, “that in the eyes of any who witnessed the struggle – I’ll seem the hero… and Namor, the would-be killer! It’s almost a joke! To the Earthmen, Captain Marvel is a hero – to his merciless fellow Kree, an expendable secret agent-! And, to himself – perhaps the most tormented being in two far-flung galaxies-!” So I guess I was wrong – Namor didn’t take the whole incident as proof that humans suck and should be wiped out. I suppose that makes sense, given that this was just an interlude for him from whatever story was going on in his own title.

Next: What is the Metazoid? (my guess is a one-off villain that will never be seen again!)

  1. That was … almost coherent. A nice change for Marvel I guess.

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  1. Where I Read: Captain Marvel, Part 5 | Daddy DM

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