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Where I Read: Captain Marvel, Part 8

April 5, 2017

Captain Marvel #6 (cover date October ’68)

“In the Path of Solam” by Arnold Drake (w), Don Heck (p), and John Tartaglione (i).

We open in media res, with Captain Mar-vell engaged in a deadly battle with a giant blue scaly humanoid monster. The choice of color is curious, since Mar-vell just battled a giant blue humanoid monster in the previous issue, but this isn’t the Metazoid. As we turn the page, we learn that Mar-vell is actually taking part in “psycho-combat,” a virtual reality exercise aboard the Kree spaceship. Not-so-shockingly, Colonel Yon-rogg orders Medic Una to turn the “intensity factor” to 180 which, notes Una, is the “killer level.” Una protests, but disobeying a direct order is punishable by death (is it, really?), so she complies. However, despite the captmarvel-08-aincreased difficulty and deadliness, Mar-vell triumphs over the scenario.

A disgusted Yon-rogg orders Mar-vell back to Earth, lest the absence of Dr. Walter Lawson be noted. After the Captain departs, a technician informs Yon-rogg that they need to land on the planet to make emergency repairs on one of their engines! Worse, the ship’s cloaking device will not function after re-entry! Except that it has worked fine in the atmosphere in the past? Well, perhaps we can chalk this particular wrinkle up to the engine failure.

Naturally, as the spaceship lands, it buzzes Carol Danvers’ automobile. She is so shocked by the sight that she loses control of her car and, naturally, almost runs over one Dr. Lawson! Carol gets out and tells Lawson that she saw a UFO, but he poo-poos her. No such thing, he says. Then the ship’s landing creates a gust of wind that blows Danvers into Lawson’s arms. What about that wind, she asks? “You are forgetting Florida’s three major industries,” he replies, “Oranges, tourists, and… hurricanes!” So it seems the Cape is located in Florida, after all.

captmarvel-08-bCarol disengages herself from the Doctor, and apologizes for acting like a “skittish girl!” Lawson mentions that he prefers her “female side” to “the policeman,” and urges that she proceed cautiously if she is going to investigate the strange happenings in the area. Of course, the cautious approach gives the Kree time to make their repairs and take off again. This produces another gust of wind and a flash of light on the horizon, not to mention burn marks in the grass. But Mar-vell tells Carol again that there’s no such thing as UFOs and walks away. “Tread carefully, Mar-vell!” warns the narrator, “You have yet to feel the string of an Earth woman’s anger..!” As a writer, Arnold Drake certainly seems to delight in talking to the characters.

captmarvel-08-c

Science!

The next day, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist shows off a giant laser that they’ve built at the missile base. Boy, they have a lot of major projects going on at once at this place! The laser takes sunlight that’s being reflected by a mirror placed in Earth’s orbit, and uses the energy to fire a beam that can hit Saturn. Why would you want to shoot a laser at Saturn? Good question. Mar-vell is alarmed – thanks to his superior Kree knowledge, he foresees a great danger to using the sun’s energies in this way. He tries to warn the physicist, but Yon-rogg overhears the conversation and activates Mar-vell’s wrist monitor. Dr. Lawson’s warnings are interrupted as he doubles over with pain.

Mar-vell explains away the incident with a lie about a wrist fracture. He and the scientist head over to Control, where the techs are about to turn on the giant laser. Carol Danvers is there as well, and when the physicist mentions that Dr. Lawson tried to dissuade him from turning on the device, her suspicions are renewed. Mar-vell tries to deflect her attention by outing her to her colleagues as a UFO-believer (uh, didn’t they have a giant alien robot at the base not too long ago? Of course there are UFOs!) and she stalks off, saying that she will prove that he is lying – even if it takes a year! “Not a Kree year, I hope,” thinks Mar-vell to himself. So how short would the Kree year have to be for Mar-vell to make that remark? A week? A month?

captmarvel-08-dAnyway, they turn on the laser, but it overloads, and explodes, and a giant humanoid energy monster – “a photo-kinetic being!” – erupts from the wreckage. Solam has arrived, as Mar-vell feared! The Captain quickly changes into his battle suit and starts shooting the monster with his uni-beam. The sun monster starts to shrink, and is about to be eliminated, when Yon-rogg intervenes once more with the wrist monitor. While our hero is paralyzed by the pain, Solam breaks into the base’s gym and absorbs “every photon of energy” from the gym’s… sun lamps? Now restored to its original size, it smashes its way into a rocket engine test facility, looking for more energy.

Mar-vell tells the General that they need to feed Solam a precise amount of energy to cause it to explode. But to determine the proper amount of energy would require a massive amount of computer power. The General orders a “four-way video hookup” (video?!) between the Cape’s central computer and the computers at CMU, Cal Tech, and MIT. “I want direct data intercommunication! And I want it… now!” And that, folks, is how the internet was born.

The Captain (referred to here in the captions as “the crypto-alien” for some reason) feeds some advanced mathematical formulas into the Cape’s computer. Why does Yon-rogg allow this when he can hit him again with the pain-wrist-thingy at will? Maybe he’s gathering evidence to use in the next trial? After the calculations are complete, Mar-vell gives the signal, and an auxiliary laser fires a beam at Solam, who grows bigger and bigger, and then explodes into nothingness. Mar-vell flies away and heads back to the spaceship, wondering if he is losing his identity as a Kree.

captmarvel-08-eAboard the ship, Yon-rogg has indeed transmitted Mar-vell’s actions to Ronan, thus sealing the Captain’s fate! And elsewhere, someone named Quasimodo – who has a misshapen face on what looks like a robotic body – has detected the birth of the internet! He requires “computer energy” to live, and so this event is of great interest to him. It’s a shame he isn’t around in the present day, where everyone is carrying a networked computer around in their pocket! And those computers in our phones are probably orders of magnitude more powerful than the ones that the military was using in 1968.

Well, I have to say that this outing was rather underwhelming. But I am curious about this Quasimodo chap – I only know him from pictures in the old Marvel Handbooks, so I am interested in learning about the character.

Next: the revenge of Quasimodo!

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4 Comments
  1. I suppose he strictly speaking is a cryto-alien. It just means hidden or undetected alien, as I recall.

    And I’d still like to see Danvers grow a backbone please. :-/

    • Ah, that makes sense. And sadly, Carol’s time in this book is rather ignoble. It’ll be another 10 years from this comic before she’s turned into a hero in her own right. Then a lot of bad stuff happens to her for about another 25 years before she’s turned into Marvel’s A-list female hero.

      • So… the change will come, but I shouldn’t hold my breath while waiting. Gotcha.

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