Monday, 1 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 6

Journey Into Mystery #178

NB: Now my scanner's working I am not only adding images to new posts in this series, but I've updated the previous posts with scanned images. Wow! No expense spared!

Inevitably, Journey into Mystery #178 begins with a flashback. About a fifth of the total page count so far has been dedicated to flashbacks, so why not? It’s business as usual on that level, but there’s immediately something different about how the book looks.

The narrator never turns up again, by the way

These pages are crammed with action. The high contrast style crackles and hums with energy while the heavy black borders give the pages weight and definition. It’s from a different age from what we’ve seen up to now.

Since Kane left, the art has been provided by Silver Age stalwarts Bob Brown and Herb Trimpe. They’re decent artists – and Bob Brown makes a good fist of things – but their style looks stolid and staid beside what we’ve got here. After the flashback’s been packed away, the story proper begins with this arresting image:

Surely no flesh and blood comics fan could resist this! It’s got everything: amazing angle on the firm-jawed hero, weird threatening aliens and a gorgeous woman that needs saving. It’s more than a comics frame – it draws more on the power of golden age SF illustration and the cosmic sci fi surrealism coming out of Europe in the late 60s and early 70s than the efforts of Brown and Trimpe’s 60s catalogue art approach.

We’re far away from the Marvel Universe again – much further than Counter Earth – so the story has an excitingly unconstrained feel. Worlds can be destroyed, characters can die, things can be turned upside down and there’s no consequence.

I don’t know how much input Len Wein had into things, but this is written, pencilled and inked by Starlin. The plot has the slightly deranged randomness of a personal folly. Warlock’s encounter with the beautiful astronaut above sets him against the Universal Church of Truth, a super fascist religion that dominates the galaxy. The twist is that that the Church’s living god – Magus – is a future version of himself. To defeat the church he must destroy himself!

It’s a great combination of space opera, fashionable anti-authoritarian parable and psychic exploration, all within the typically bombastic verbal and visual vocabulary of the Marvel way.

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