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Where I Read: Captain Marvel, Part 14

May 24, 2017

Captain Marvel #12 (cover date April ’69)

“The Moment of the Man-Slayer!” by Arnold Drake (w), Dick Ayers (p), and Syd Shores (i). Same penciller, new inker. Art is a little better than the previous issue, which in retrospect might have been a rush job.

The opening page is meant to invoke the cover to Captain Marvel #1, except the background is all trippy space-scape. We re-wind a bit to re-iterate what happened at the end of the last issue. Mar-vell pledges his life to Zo in exchange for the power to defeat his arch-nemesis Yon-rogg. Zo then empowers the Kree with the “powers to conquer time and space and even create mass illusions”. Furthermore, he can travel at “the speed of thought” with the “awesome power of teleportation,” and will have “access to all the knowledge of the universe – since that rests within [Zo]!” But apparently, in order to access that knowledge, Mar-vell will have to teleport himself back to Zo, and each trip back will cause “incalculable pain” for some unknown reason. Maybe just because Zo’s a jerk.

Mar-vell takes his leave, and seemingly projects himself (or maybe just his giant ethereal head) through space, a more teleport-like effect than the flying he exhibited at the end of #11. First he visits the asteroid where he laid Una’s body to rest to pay his respects. Then he goes looking for his quarry, Colonel Yon-rogg. He finds Yon-rogg’s ship flying through space, and notes that he could smash the vessel right now. But that would be too quick a death for the Colonel. Aboard the Kree ship, Yonny swears that he glimpsed Mar-vell’s face and heard his voice, and the villain begins to sweat. But he knows that his foe must be dead, adrift in the Earth rocket. Uh, where is Yonny going, anyway? Did the covert mission to Earth get cancelled?

Next, our cosmic assassin tries to teleport to his hotel room near the Cape. Why is he going back there?!? Yon-rogg is in space! In any case, this course of action is apparently hazardous, because without any equipment he has to rely on his memory, and any error could place him in “shark-infested waters – or in a live volcano!” Instead of any of that, he lands in Cuba.

Well, I’m guessing it’s supposed to be Cuba. Mar-vell is surrounded by Spanish-speaking soldiers with beards and berets, and he thinks to himself that he missed his mark by 90 miles. Sorry, Arnold, Cuba is 90 miles from Key West. Cape Canaveral is east of Orlando, another 300 miles to the north! Major geography fail. The soldiers aim their weapons at the strangely-costumed figure and debate what to do with him. Mar-vell tries to teleport again, but… can’t. He concentrates harder, and then… it works. Thrilling stuff.

Mar-vell appears, translucent and Space Ghost-like, outside of his hotel room. In another thrilling sequence, he has to wait for a clerk to walk by before he fully materializes. Then he slips inside, and finds that day’s edition of the Cocoa Beach Gazette. Cocoa Beach is the town next-door to Cape Canaveral, finally confirming that that is indeed where we are despite all the cliffs and canyons depicted in previous issues. Our hero is surprised to read that a new rocket has been hastily assembled with parts flown in from Texas. Mar-vell thinks to himself that as Captain Marvel, he’d be wanted by the military for stealing the previous rocket. As Dr. Walter Lawson, he’d be wanted for being AWOL, although I don’t think that concept would apply to civilian contractors? Or maybe it would, given that he’d have to have a top secret clearance.

Anyway, over at the base, Mar-vell’s suspicions are confirmed. Captain Marvel is to be shot on sight, and Carol Danvers is given permission to take the gloves off with Dr. Lawson, who is to be arrested if he re-appears. Then we head to a top-secret lab in the Caribbean, where the Black Widow (in her original fishnet-and-mask w/long black hair costume) is trying to locate the “single greatest threat to U.S. security!” Said threat is about to be activated by a man at a console – we can only see his arms because we only ever see him from the back of his high-backed chair, in true Dr. Claw style. He runs down a checklist before turning on some kind of giant red plastic android that he calls – the Man-Slayer!

Lawson pulls up to the base and is about to be arrested when the guards are surprised by the appearance of the giant red plastic man! “I am Man-Slayer!” it announces, “A being of bio-chemical and electronic perfection! Without emotion or feeble human motivations! I have but one function – to destroy men!” And to loudly announce your intentions. Destroying men is a rather unimaginative goal, I must say. How about world conquest or getting rich? Mar-vell uses his new illusion-generating powers to summon forth a phantom mob of anti-missile protesters that are supposed to distract the guards so he can get away and change, and it works. Are the guards not surprised to see a mob appear out of nowhere right after a giant robot storms the base?!?

Said robot is rampaging towards the moon launch, ranting at the soldiers with telepathy, for it has no mouth. Back in the Caribbean, Natasha breaks into the control room of the Man-Slayer and points a gun at the operator’s unseen head. But he has more plastic men present, and they grab and disarm the Widow. At the base, the Man-Slayer, in true megalomaniacal fashion, pauses to tell everyone that it’s about to destroy the rocket (wait, the rocket is not a man! your only function is to destroy men!) rather than just, y’know, doing it. This gives Captain Marvel the opportunity to show up and punch it in the face! He then tries to create an illusion of a prison around his opponent, but the Man-Slayer just walks through it, because it also has no eyes and Mar-vell’s new power “obviously works upon the optic nerves!” Thanks a lot, Zo.

The two trade blows and motivations, but the Man-Slayer shrugs off Mar-vell’s strongest punch and then starts tossing him about. So much for those great new powers, chump. Just as the android is about to deal the final blow… it stops, frozen! For the Black Widow tossed a concealed micro-grenade at the control panel, destroying the energy transmitter that powered the android. The unseen operator is pissed: “My greatest creation – destroyed by a stupid, meddling female!” The Widow gets shot with a “nerve gun” which injects her with nerve gas, it seems, which is a little strange. Perhaps they meant a nerve agent, rather than nerve gas. Either way, she collapses.

Over in Florida, Carol Danvers is also not happy. “I won’t rest until both Lawson and the great Captain Marvel are behind bars!” she says, but to herself she thinks, “Is this your bloodhound training driving you, Carol – or the fact that you loved Marvel and he betrayed you?” Mar-vell changes back into Lawson, and tries to slip back into the base. When he’s spotted, he realizes that he has no business here and should just get on with his revenge. Yes, please do! The MPs look on in astonishment as the doctor fades away and vanishes, right before their eyes.

Well that was a disappointing return to form. Why did Mar-vell feel the need to resume his Earth identity, when he only took it in the first place as part of his (now defunct) mission with the Kree? Why protect the rocket launch from the Man-Slayer after making such a big deal about not caring about anything anymore? Why create the diversion to protect his “secret” identity? It feels like this script is a relic of the pre-Zo narrative.

Next: how about some revenge already? No, wait, the Man-Slayer is on the next issue’s cover. Sigh.

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7 Comments
  1. Maybe Cpt M brings the Man-Slayer to Yonny?

    • No, that would make too much sense…

      • Good point. I retract my suggestion.

      • Pinkius permalink

        besides, Yon-rogg is no man! He’s a alien of unspecified gender who simply LOOKS like a human male.

      • Do we really think Man-slayer is smart enough to realize the difference?

      • To be fair, the Man-Slayer doesn’t specify a restriction on species, just that its only purpose is to “destroy men!” (of course, then it goes and destroys a rocket instead) Yon-rogg is a man of the Kree, and thus a man, and thus could be a valid target for the Slayer. I’d allow it as a DM.

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