Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Let's Talk About Secret Wars Crossovers!

Everything That Now Exists

Cover by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone

2. The Savage Land and Comet Man

The Savage Land is a prehistoric jungle hidden in Antarctica which dates back to the tail end of 1964, when it first appeared in the pages of Lee & Kirby's X-Men #10. Although it would remain a staple of Marvel stories - with just about every character and team having at least one adventure in the land of dinosaurs over the last fifty years - Its origins would go untold until the mid-80s.

Art by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone

At the tail end of his early 80s solo series, Ka-Zar learned that the Savage Land was created by an alien race known as the Nuwali as a kind of "game preserve," where Earth's evolutionary process could be studied in detail (Ka-Zar the Savage #34, written by Mike Carlin). However, he was given incomplete answers regarding who had hired the Nuwali to do this.

Art by Paul Neary and Carlos Garzon

Based on this, it's probably best to surmise that the Nuwali weren't very bright. But seriously, it's probable that Mike Carlin had something more planned for this big reveal, but rushed through the explanation because this was the series' last issue. By the time this was picked up on, years later, the idea that the Savage Land's patrons were vulnerable to adrenalin was mooted (more on this below). (I mean, boy howdy, could Rabum Alal have saved himself a lot of trouble if this were true!)

In 1985, in the pages of The Avengers #257, the Savage Land was destroyed by Terminus. After this the Savage Land lay fallow for a few years, and in that time the area was retaken by the snow and ice. But in 1988 the Fantastic Four - Englehart's team, sans Reed and Sue, during the period when Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura) and Crystal had taken their places - became involved in an extremely involved intergalactic conspiracy, involving the alien race known as the Fortisquians (from the pages of Comet Man!), ancient Atlantis, and Michael fucking Morbius (who spent some time space traveling in the 1970s, lest ye forget). Eventually the trail led them to the ruins of the Savage Land, where an international team of scientists (and, is turned out, AIM) was studying the former site. The need to get to the bottom of just who paid the Nuwali (and later the Fortisquians) to preserve the Savage Land required an excavation of the defunct machinery that had powered the Land for millions of years (in issue #316). Here's what they found.

Art by Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott

(In case you were worried, the Savage Land got better almost immediately after this story, thanks to the timely intervention of - guess who? - the High Evolutionary, aided by the X-Men, also during the Evolutionary War [Uncanny X-Men Annual #12 ].)

The next issue, #317, picks up a moment after this bombshell, and, well, best just to let Englehart explain himself.

Art by Keith Pollard and Romeo Tanghal

Comet Man was, even by the standards of 80s Marvel, an odd book. Despite - or perhaps because of - the "pedigree" of its writers, Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer, the book came and went with little fanfare. The fact that Comet Man and the Fortisquians - the aliens who gave Comet Man his powers - have made all of two appearances since 1988 attests to the fact that a character created by two C-level celebrities to cash-in on the approach of Halley's Comet in 1986 might not have been destined for lasting fame. Considering how little lasting impact Comet Man has actually made, his insanely detailed entry from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update '89 appears to have been written during a bout of temporary insanity on the part of all involved.

Art by Kelly Jones

(If you hate yourself, you can read them slightly bigger here and here. And if you're on a roll, here's the entry for Comet Man's pal, er, Max - here and here. However, it should be noted that the series is not without its fans, as this piece demonstrates - but in terms of their long-lasting contribution to the Marvel Universe, they didn't have a lot to offer after Englehart had finished his continuity-transplant.)

However, the Fortisquians serve a necessary purpose, as they are revealed to be the third alien race be employed by the Beyonders. And, given as how they have access to instantaneous intergalactic transportation, they have no problem with giving the FF a lift out to meet the Nuwail.

(For context, I should probably point out that Sharon Ventura was suffering from PTSD as a result of being sexually assaulted in the pages of Captain America a few years ago, which explains her hair-trigger when it comes to being grabbed.)

An artifact, you say? What kind of artifact?

Does this machine look familiar to you? Well, it should if you remember all the way back to Fantastic Four #51 (1966).

In addition to being perhaps the single greatest issue in Lee & Kirby's run on the title (and therefore perhaps the single greatest story in Fantastic Four, and Marvel, history), this issue introduced a pair of extraordinarily important concepts: the Radical Cube, and the Negative Zone. Chances are very good that you know what the latter is, but the former deserves explanation.

The Radical Cube was the device that first allowed Reed Richards to travel beyond Earth's dimension.

And now we know, a Radical Cube was the device through which the Beyonders first communicated with our dimension. Now, since Reed isn't here, the Fantastic Four are left with only one option to explain this amazing device - poke it with a stick.

At which point the Nuwali rush in, along with an AIM agent who stowed aboard the Fortisquians' ship and hired the Nuwali kill the Fantastic Four. Turns out AIM had already found the teleportation system at the Savage Land and had been using it for some years. But you can probably guess how this ends . . . the Nuwali were no match for the Fantastic Four. But, like the Fortisquians, they served a purpose: bringing the FF one step closer to the Beyonders themselves. They knew what the Beyonders were doing - and even if they still don't know why, they now knew how to find them.

Next: The Molecule Man and the Cosmic Cube


BK said...

Holy shit, what a complicated continuity. Such a contrast to see the Kirby pages with the 80s pages. Glad I discovered indy comics before this and missed these writers chasing down obscure dangling plot threads from cancelled books --the curse of Roy Thomas.

Mr. K said...

Wait, why were Miguel Ferrer and Bill Mumy considered big enough celebrities in the 1980s to write a comic book?

Adam Farrar said...

I don't think I've read a comic with Comet Man other than Earth X. I hadn't heard of him until that point but just accepted his presence as a fact.

In Ben's defense, had he ever seen the Radical Cube? Isn't that the imposter in those pages? Did they always use that to travel to the Negative Zone or could Reed have made a new version, he's always tinkering, and left the old one to gather dust.

CinqO said...

Bless you Tim. You are doing the Living Tribunal's work here on Earth.

PTOR said...

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that while I'm not a fan of one writer burning down the house of another and salting the ashes, I DO love when they build a convoluted (yet hopefully trackable) shared narrative.

Radical cube being tossed in there is a nice touch.

I'm not sure I understand the Beyonders questionable use of product "branding" - what with their name in Euclidean geometry-defying lettering, but you have to admire their point of pride of workmanship.

Oh, minor stick-poking (not the Thing, but ME) when I highlight this excellent (if involved) sentence:

"...became involved in an extremely involved intergalactic conspiracy, involving the alien race known as the Fortisquians..."

I get it... this plot-line IS involved.

When's the next entry? I'm waiting eagerly (said the man who hasn't posted to his own blog in a year).