Thursday, April 12, 2012

80-Page Thursday: Marvel Super-Heroes #11!

I've blogged a number of 80-page giants here, some good, some...less so. Today's features a cover with Ghost Rider burning a woman's clothes off, or burning a naked woman. Either or, yet it's still kind of boring. From 1992, Marvel Super-Heroes #11, featuring stories from Tina Chrioproces, Dwayne McDuffie, and Chris Claremont; with art by Greg Larocque, Bob Budiansky, and Mike Vosburg.

I have a few of these Marvel Super-Heroes 80-page specials, and they were uneven at best. Several of them feature short, eight-page stories that may have been deemed unfit for the biweekly Marvel Comics Presents. And man alive, that book ran a lot of stinkers. Nobody wants to read about Captain Ultra. Nobody.

Oh, this issue. Well, the good news is, instead of a bunch of shorts or pin-ups, it featured three full length stories. Suspiciously full-length; to the point I suspected them of being unused fill-in issues being burnt off. The first story, "Fireworks," featured the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, and is footnoted as set before 1983's Ghost Rider #80. Blaze and carnival buddy Red take a vacation on their bikes, but run afoul of a small town with a survivalist cult, anti-nuke protesters, a troubled-but-pretty pyromaniac, and a sheriff who seems fairly reasonable but isn't above locking you up indefinitely for mouthing off.

Zarathos, the demon called Ghost Rider, is the only smart one in the lot: he sees the cultists as suckers, and uses their worship to overpower Blaze's will. He also plans to trade the pyromaniac's soul to hell in exchange for his freedom, and she's so entranced with his flames she'd let him do it. The conclusion, and most of the rest of this one are pretty standard, but that's not a bad bit.

Next is a Giant-Man story. Seventeen pages of the former Black Goliath, as he battles a wannabe scientist driven mad by his levitation experiments. Eh. Still, this might be one in the win column for him.

Lastly, we have a Ms. Marvel story. Her 70's book was cancelled with #23, but long-time fans of Ms. Marvel, the X-Men's Rogue, and/or Chris Claremont know she had a couple more issues that were never published; even though Claremont would allude to them in Avengers Annual #10. I wondered if these issues hadn't been in the can for years, but now I think the art was new, the script old.

"Cry, Vengeance!" opens with Ms. Marvel and Iron Man at a crime scene: the office of Carol Danver's psychiatrist and love interest Michael Barnett. Using Reed Richard's heat image tracer, they watch a replay of Barnett's murder, brutally beaten by a woman that looks like Carol: the shape-changer Mystique. (Aside: Reed's tracer dates back to early FF issues, but isn't seen anymore since the science is sketchy even for comics, and would've put every CSI-type show in the world out of business.)

Iron Man offers Avengers assistance, but Ms. Marvel wants this for herself. After Barnett's funeral, graveside; she has one of her "7th-sense prescient trances," a waking nightmare of being buried alive. Cursing her unreliable power, she tracks a number Mystique dialed to an import company: she finds crates of weapons, but then has another trance of being attacked by flaming duplicates of herself. She pulls herself together in time to see an arms deal, with the dealer meeting Claremont go-to villains the Hellfire Club.

Spotted, the Club attacks, and while Ms. Marvel is able to beat Pierce; Leland uses her gravity power to make her too heavy to move. Smashing her way through the floor, Ms. Marvel escapes by falling into the sewer...hey, that sounds awfully familiar. It's almost exactly what happened to Wolverine in X-Men #132! I suspect Claremont had this one written for Ms. Marvel, but it wasn't published, so he expanded and folded it into X-Men. Turned out OK for him...

Carol goes plainclothes to continue the investigation, to get close to the arms dealer on a plane. She has a nightmare about herself in a Black Queen outfit, being forced to kill a girl named Rogue before she "strips from you everything you are, everyone you ever loved." She also doesn't realize she was spotted by Tessa of the Hellfire Club (whom, I believe, was retroactively made a hero by Claremont despite this) who sets the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants on her.

Attacked by Pyro and Avalanche, Ms. Marvel defeats them; but the arms dealer is killed, leaving her with no leads. Weeks pass, and Mystique is still concerned by Destiny's premonition that Ms. Marvel will somehow hurt Rogue. Overhearing her foster mother, Rogue goes after Carol herself, who was starting to pull herself together after the events of Avengers #200. In short order, Rogue uses her powers to absorb Ms. Marvel's powers and memories, but it's too much: Rogue would be stuck with both for years, while Carol lost them almost completely. Rogue throws the unconscious Carol off the Golden Gate Bridge, setting up their appearances in Avengers Annual #10.

A lot crammed in there, more than I would've suspected would have fit in a single issue of Ms. Marvel. The story also features a closing recap of what would happen to Carol, up to becoming Binary, which was a cool look but a worse name than Warbird. I prefer her keeping "Ms. Marvel," as a tribute to Captain Marvel...but Carol getting promoted doesn't sound bad either.

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