Monday, July 11, 2011

Although I still had a couple issues from when I was younger, I've had to replace most of my issues of Micronauts: the New Voyages. I know I kept the first issue, which was a pretty interesting start, and #6, "Bug Stories", where Bug leaves the team, but his imagination runs wild with "What If?" style worries over his friends. That one's pretty good, even out of context.

Today's issue? Not as good. Micronauts #14, "Greater Love Hath No Man...!" Written by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Kelley Jones, inks by Danny Bulanadi. The story begins with the team in pretty rough shape: Commander Rann had left the team to become a hippie orbit a "psycho-active star" and commune with the Makers, who had if not created the Microverse, arranged it in the shape of a DNA molecule. (Why? Um, because it's cool.) Marionette's legs were paralyzed, although that may have been psychosomatic, and she was using a hoverchair. Former member Devil was missing, and attempts to rescue him are repeatedly sidetracked. And the Micronauts' new leader wasn't invited, no one liked him, was a total dick, and had ulterior motives on top of ulterior motives: Scion. Rann sees the Maker, or is really, really, high.

This was about a bazillion years before the car company of the same name, and I remember being puzzled how his name was pronounced. Scion, who looked like a metal, Colossus-type guy (albeit more slender, and with wings) commandeered the team, claiming he had to lead them to save the Microverse; and had enough power that Huntarr and Acroyear couldn't force his ass out of an airlock. He was also infuriatingly tightlipped about the nature of the emergency, and what needed to be done; so Scion seemed to be high-handedly bossing the others around and they resented the hell out of him. Huntarr openly asks Bug's alien (to them, even) girlfriend Solitaire if she could whup Scion; she admits she can't, but that even his words are dangerous.

After roughing up some innocent aliens to get the Keys to the Zodiac (a power-up or key needed for something...) Scion takes the team to the planet Aegis, which Bug and Mari recall as a nice place. Now, it's a planetary refugee camp, and utterly miserable. After defeating Baron Karza, the Micronauts left the Microverse at peace, and now this. Scion points out that "a mortal enemy like Baron Karza" would've enslaved these people, but they would live; now their only options were run or die.
I like this panel.
The Micronauts (and frankly, probably their readers at the time) do not take this well. They had been resistance fighters (in a superhero mold) and aren't equipped to deal with this level of suffering. Bug loses it when he sees refugee insectivorids like himself, and they land to talk to them. The refugees explain that they, and millions others, have been trying to outrun a crushing wave of psychic pain coming from the center of the Microverse, Homeworld. The cause is unknown, but the pain is strong enough to kill plant life, so yeah, it's pretty bad.

The Micronauts aren't sure where to start, since this doesn't appear to be a problem they can solve by punching. Bug is at a loss, perhaps more so than the others; since his homeworld had previously been safe. (The others had lost or been banished from theirs.) Scion 'comforts' Bug, but also does something to him, either with his powers or the Keys.

The next morning, Solitaire finds Bug has formed a cocoon, which is not a natural occurrence. Acroyear tries to free him, but the cocoon is augmented by a force field. Scion shrugs, nothing to be done; but Solitaire refuses to give up, claiming this would change Bug's body but destroy his spirit. Although she looks like a hot woman for Bug, she is an alien shape-shifter, and tries to change her way through. Oddly, Bug still seems able to talk, and is dismayed to see his girlfriend as a chitinous blob.

Now Marionette breaks down, since she's already lost Commander Rann, and can't bear to lose Bug. (They were a couple briefly, in the old series.) She tries to ram her hoverchair through the field, failing spectacularly, then tries to crawl to Bug and fails. But, she gets close enough that Solitaire can reach her, and together they break the cocoon. (By virtue of having slept with Bug, I guess...) Bug seems no worse for wear, but Mari is devastated, and confesses that she's not the princess they thought she was...

As a book, not unlike fellow action figure adaptation ROM, Micronauts was in a weird place after defeating the series' big bad and breaking their storytelling engine. Gillis was trying to get away from their previous 'rebels vs. empire' formula, with mixed results. I think this issue's structure was somewhat typical, though: big alien Kirby-esque weirdness, in-team drama, a problem that can't be solved by punching, then punching.

I usually mention the Statements of Ownership when I come across them, and this issue had one. Line C, total paid circulation, average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 157,361. Single issue nearest to filing date: 108,183. Per the Beat, no comic sold over a hundred thousand copies in May 2011. And yet the Micronauts: New Voyages used to. Yeah.

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