ASTONISHING TALES #15 KA-ZAR

comics

“…And Who Will Call Him Savage?”
Writer: Mike Friedrich
Artist: Gil Kane

Ka-zar and Zabu are taking a walk at night in New York when they hear cries for help. Responding they rescue a drug dealer from getting killed by thugs. After rescuing the man he gets into a fight with the police and has to flee. Picked up by Barbara Morse the two head over to Dr. Calvin’s apartment and find that the thug he confronted is taking Dr. Calvin in a fake ambulance. After rescuing Dr. Calvin and getting her safely to the hospital Ka-zar then turns his attention on his captive Vinnie. Allowing him to escape he tracks him to the headquarters of his boss known as The Pusher. The Pusher is a karate expert and gives Ka-zar a good fight but still not good enough to take him.

Wow. Ka-zar in pants! And a shirt! Shoes and socks! He’s dressed for a night on the town. Still Ka-zar is Ka-zar and manages to kick ass all over the place. I love his adventures in ’70s New York. This is sort of like Tarzan meets Shaft. Its revealed at the end that the thug Vinnie is actually Dr. Calvin’s son which brings up some interesting potential. Also The Pusher was attempting to kidnap Dr. Calvin for someone. AIM? Some other sinister organization? The New York adventure is off to a good start.

SCOUT #17

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“Key to the Highway”
Writer & Artist: Timothy Truman

Scout and Monday are on the road after breaking out of the V.A. hospital in Maine. After attacking some targets to make it look like they are heading south, they take the back roads in their ’55 Bel Aire and head west back to Scouts home territory. They pass through an economically and environmentally devastated America avoiding the police and Salvation Army reservists. They get in a fight with the locals in Kansas and the two stop at Scout’s uncle who owns a junk yard in New Mexico. Scout goes through a sweat lodge to cleanse the drugs out of him. A vision of a monster is defeated by an army of tiny beans wielding spears. The uncle gives the two a motorcycle/sidecar combo with a .30 caliber to continue on their way.

“She’s a Hum-Dum Dinger From Dingersville”
Writer: Timothy Truman
Artist: John K. Snyder III

Missy and the New Disciples of Soul are playing to sold out crowds at the Circus Maximus in Vegas. There is trouble on the way. The rival group that the completion hired called “Lex Lucifer and the Blue Scream” have arrived. Trouble is sure to ensue.

“Do-It-Yourself Maintenance For National Guard Defence Vehicles!”
Writer: Steven Scott Beau Smith
Artist: Tim Harkins

Another Beau La Duke’s tips for real men installment. This time he shows how to take care of National Guard vehicles. Take the extra fuel cans to cut down on weight. Break off the antenna to cut wind resistance. Make sure the tires don’t have too much air with the special tire gauge(aka a knife). And of course fill the air vents with cow dung to give the city boys the air of the open range.

This was a great story. Monday and Scout are now together. The road trip gives us a glimpse of what the country looks like outside of the southwest. Not a real pretty sight. Pittsburgh is a ghost town. A country western cult controls West Virginia keeping the moonshine flowing and the cops out. The Midwest farmland is desolate and a water pipeline takes water from the great lakes having to be protected from Canadian saboteurs. The Beanworld cameo was handled well and fit logically into the story. Monday is still mysterious and makes the reader want to know more about his past.

The short backup story with the band sets up a conflict that will bring together everyone since Monday and Scout are heading to Vegas.

The La Duke segment is another humorous installment. La Duke really loves the National Guard.

THE WARLORD #18

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“Bloodmoon”
Writer & Artist: Mike Grell

Morgan and Tara continue their quest for Joshua when they are attacked by a dinosaur. Fleeing they come to a strange clearing that the dinosaur is afraid to enter. The clearing turns out to be a trench that looks like it was carved out of the jungle. Soon after a giant red moon appears and disgorges rocket sleds. The sleds manage to capture the two and take them inside the moon. It is here that they find out that the moon is actually a spaceship carrying the last survivors of a civilization. The aliens are attempting to cross-bred with humans so they can settle this new world.

Morgan is not interesting in being a human lab rat and assaults the commander and tries to escape. Captured he is subjected to a beam that starts to turn him into a bull man. Tara is taken to the commanders chambers where he tries to get romantic. But Tara manages to grab the commander’s pistol and escape. She forces the alien manning the machine to turn Morgan back to human then they steal some rocket sleds. A guard fires at them while they escape and hits the reactor causing the moon to explode.

The third part of the quest for Morgan and Tara’s son. This story has a heavy element of science fiction in it with aliens and their experiments. Another fun adventure the two have in the world of Skartaris. The rocket sleds will be a big help in their quest. Grell still keeps the reader in the dark on what the overall plan in finding Deimos is but you get a sense that something is coming to advance that plot thread along. If there is any complaint its the easy way that the moon was destroyed. I think he should have kept the aliens around. There was a wealth of possible future storylines from them still knocking around Skartaris.

THE HULK! #18

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“Cast Away”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Ron Wilson & Alfredo Alcala

Banner once again turns into the Hulk while in a hospital. The Hulk confused and angry busts out and terrorizes the people in some African city. The army comes and accomplishes little except to made him even more angry. Having enough of people screaming and running from him or soldiers shooting at him, the Hulk takes off. He jumps to a horseshoe shaped island off the coast. The island is inhabited by an old man who having no money or prospects abandoned civilization to live out his live on the deserted island. Banner helps the old man build a place and seems to have found peace. But pirates come to the island and shoot a young tourist. The Hulk literally digs up the whole island and takes to back to civilization so the young man can get medical attention.

“Shadows in the Heart of the City”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Bill Sienkiewicz & Klaus Janson

Moon Knight goes after his brother the serial killer Hatchet-man after he seriously wounds his girlfriend Marlene. The chase takes him through Central Park and he manages to save the life of another potential victim. A fight results in the Hatchet-man slipping and impaling himself on a tree.

This was a fascinating Hulk story. It was filled with a lot of pathos and hope. The old man’s story of where he worked all his life and forced to retire when he hit 65. He then loses his house because he can’t pay the taxes and forced to live with his daughter. Feeling useless he takes off on a ship and eventually finds the island. He is happy to live a carefree live. His story sounds very real and living on the island without dealing with the B.S the modern world throws at you sound very appealing. Also the full page of the Hulk knocking the island loose is awesome. A very laid back and interesting story.

The Moon Knight comes to a conclusion with his brother. Flashbacks to their childhood give the reader some understanding of how both brothers think and the rivalry that developed between them. As always the Moon Knight is a great and interesting backup feature.

TRAGG AND THE SKY GODS #9

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“Where Prowls The Devil Shark”
Writer: Don Glut
Artist: Dan Spiegle

Keera is now living with Tragg’s tribe in the caves by the sea. We start with two cavemen trying to take her as a mate. Thus Tragg must come in and beat some sense into them. Keera is thankful for Tragg’s intervention but is feeling lonely so decides to sneak away and live by herself. It is while hunting that she is attacked by a dinosaur. At this time Zorak and his followers are jetting through the skies looking for the traitor Ferenk who tried to start a revolt.

Zorak and his fellow Sky Gods manage to kill the dinosaur and Zorak makes a move on Keera which is quickly repulsed. Angered he orders Keera executed but his men miss shooting her on purpose. Still an arrant shot knocks her off the cliff into the sea. A large Devil Shark is prowling the waters for food and zeros in on Keera. Luckily Tragg and Lorn are there to jump in and rescue her. Tragg being a badass manages to kill the 120 foot shark with a stone tipped spear. When the three make it to the beach they are confronted by Zorak. At the last minute they are rescued by Ferenk who drives him off. Ferenk and Keera fall in love and they depart in peace with a new found respect for each other.

“Valley of the Shadow”
Writer: Unknown

Tragg with his mate Lorn, his brother Jarn and some other tribesmen have come to the Valley of the Shadow to hunt game. The others are superstitious about entering the valley. A shadow of a skull is visible and they believe an evil spirit inhabits the valley. Tragg doesn’t believe in evil spirits so with Lorn and Jarn descend. They find the skull shaped rock casting the shadow and topple it ending the evil curse.

So this is the last of the Tragg comics. It was a solid story. Keera finds someone to love. Zorak once again gets his ass kicked. Dinosaurs, giant shark and a one page cheezy story at the end round out the experience. I guess we will never find out how it ends with the Sky Gods. Reinforcements were on the way. Also how it ended with the Dark Gods introduced last issue. Tragg obviously came out the victor because homo sapiens went on to evolve into the modern society of today with comic books, cars and canned beer. I think this is a good title to get a reboot. It has all the elements for a great series.

So anyway Tragg fades into the mists of time as an obscure series from the ’70s. Remembered fondly by me.

ASTOUNISHING TALES #14 KA-ZAR

comics

“The Night of the Looter!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Buscema

A tank is rolling through the Savage Land. A guy named Ralph and his wife Carla are there to find Vibranium. The tank is followed by the Swamp Men who worship the tank as a god. Carla the wife has married Ralph solely for his money and lets him know it. Ralph is somewhat of a wuss and desperate to prove to Carla that he is a man. Ka-zar is not happy with the intruders who have invade his realm to steal his Vibranium. Carla has plans to get rid of Ralph so she can have the Vibranium all to herself. Eventually the two find the Vibranium but that is their undoing because Vibranium melts metal and it melts their tank. The Swamp Men are angered and take out their wrath on Carla who inadvertently sealed her fate when she replace the bullets in her husbands gun with blanks so he would get killed.

“Jungle Fever!”
Writer & Artist: Unknown.

Jann the jungle girl has gone deep into the swamp to retrieve a rare red orchid for her boyfriend. The red orchid thought has a deadly effect on the native population. Only the rarer black orchid can cure the natives. Now Jann must go deeper into the swamp and fight dinosaurs to retrieve the black orchid.

Another filler story due to deadlines. This was a fun story. Carla the gold-digger wife was just over the top. She didn’t even pretend to like her husband. The husband Ralph was also over the top as a wimpy guy desperate to please his wife. Throw in Swamp Men, dinosaurs and a tank and you have a great mix. I wonder where you can buy a tank and have it shipped to Antarctica.

The Jann of the Jungle story was an old reprint from the forties or fifties. A bit hokey but an interesting read. Still I will prefer a return to current storyline. Looking forward to the adventures in New York.

SCOUT #16

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“Stormy Monday”
Writer: Timothy Truman
Artists: Timothy Truman & Flint Henry

Scout is forced to free Monday from his prison cell. Monday knows about Scout and want him to come along. Scout doesn’t trust the big stranger and a fight ensues. The two later join forces to evade the guards and escape from the V.A. Hospital. A group of Indians is waiting for them and give them food, clothing and a ’55 Bel Aire.

“3-D Horror”
Writer: Beau Smith
Artist: Tim Harking

Another installment of Beau La Duke’s tips from real men. This time he plans to spend some quality time with his sons. So they go off in the big tire pickup truck. It breaks down and the bored kids decide to play with the ‘toys’ which are real assault rifles.

Well this is a 3-D special issue and I can say that I don’t care for the gimmick. Yeah its 3-D when you look through the glasses but I think it hurts the artwork. Also someone like me with glasses finds the 3-D glasses awkward and uncomfortable. The story is ok but obviously written more with 3-D action than any substance in mind. The only important thing about this forgettable issue is that Monday and Scout are united which is sure to be an exciting story when the non 3-D stories come back.

THE WARLORD #17

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“Citadel of Death”
Writer & Artist: Mike Grell

Morgan and Tara are crossing a desert when they come upon a city. The city is abandoned and turns out to be the citadel of the sorcerer kings named Timgrad. While Tara wants to leave the cursed city Morgan knows that they need water badly so help themselves at the local fountain. It is here they are attacked by hairy baboon type demons and forced to retreat into the palace. Morgan falls through the floor into the dungeon. Here he finds a small casket with a glowing green gem and a skeleton in a pentagram drawn on the floor. The pentagram keeps out a blob of a monster. Morgan uses the gem to destroy it and rescue Tara from the demons.

Meanwhile in a separate storyline told on panels at the bottom we get the story of Ogir Falconeye. A minor sorcerer who came to Timgrad with grand plans. He breaks into the sorcerer kings palace and steals a casket. While leaving he falls through a trap into the dungeon and confronts the blob creature. He draws a pentagram on the floor to hold the creature back and then dies of starvation rather than confront the creature.

This was an enjoyable entry in the quest storyline. A minor little adventure in a mysterious deserted city in the desert is always going to be fun. I liked the idea of telling a separate story in panels at the bottom of each page. The story complements the main story and we get the real backstory unfold along with the main story. Grell does this again I believe in two more issues and it is a very effective way to tell the story. The Hellfire Gem that Morgan finds will play a crucial part in Morgan’s future both with Deimos and beyond.

THE HULK! #17

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“The Biggest Game”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Ron Wilson & Alfredo Alcala

Banner is traveling to Africa to meet a big game hunter that has developed a tranquilizer that may be able to stop the transformation to the Hulk. The man Jason Strack is supposed to be a gamekeeper at a wildlife reserve. Instead he illegally guides hunts for rich clients wanting to hunt endangered species. He is recently branching out to smuggling arms to rebels. He decides that hunting the Hulk is a great challenge and induces the transformation instead of stopping it. Of course he finds out that he bit off more than he can chew.

“Nights Born Ten Years Gone Part I”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Bill Sienkiewicz & Klaus Janson

A serial killer is terrorizing New York. Known as the Hatchet-Man he slays nurses at night by strangling them with pajama tops then chopping them up. Clues point to a mercenary that Marc Spector worked with that tried to betray him 10 years ago. His girlfriend Marlene volunteers to dress as a nurse to lure him out so Moon Knight can take care of him. Unfortunately it goes wrong and Marlene is seriously injured. We find out at the end that the killer is Moon Knights brother.

The Hulk story was a good solid story. I loved the African setting. The villain was a very loathsome man. He not only was killing endangered species but actually killed his own brother a mentally retarded man that dared defy him. Strack found out that it would take more than a rifle to kill the Hulk. He had access to rockets and grenades but they also proved ineffective so in a sense that’s the stories major flaw. There was no doubt that the Hulk was in any danger which sort of killed any suspense to the story.

The Moon Knight story once again outshined the main story. This was a very well done story with a real cliffhanger and a stocking revelation at the end. Moon Knight is a comic character that has lots of potential.

ASTONISHING TALES #13 KA-ZAR

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“Man-Thing!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema & Rich Buckler

Ka-zar is trapped in a pit with the Man-Thing. While he puts up a good fight the advantage is clearly with the Man-Thing. The AIM agents manage to take down Man-Thing with their lasers and almost capture Ka-zar. Just in the nick of time Zabu comes to the rescue and drives off the AIM agents. After locking up Man-Thing Ka-zar uses Zabu to scare out the location of AIM HQ from a captured agent. Ka-zar, Zabu and Barbara go off to rescue Dr. Carver. The Man-Thing overhears and easily escapes to follow them.

They manage to penetrate the underground HQ and kick some AIM butt. Barbara is captured by her fiancĂ© who turns out to be an AIM agent. The Man-Thing arrives in time to take him out and gives the group time to escape before he sets off the self-destruct and blows the base. Barbara knew that her fiancĂ© was an AIM agent and at the orders of Shield got close to him so she isn’t very upset to lose him. Ka-zar finding out the beautiful scientist is single decides to accompany her to New York.

So concludes the Man-Thing storyline. An announcement stated that Man-Thing was so popular he was going to get his own series so he apparently didn’t perish in the explosion. Man-thing is an interesting character. His adventures in the Everglades have been consistently good thanks to the excellent scripts from Roy Thomas. It looks like Ka-zar might have a love interest as this story ends with them heading off the New York. I’m sure there will be plenty of excitement ahead.