Friday, January 05, 2018

Betrayal! (Marvel)
Captain Marvel #26 When: May 1973
Why: Mike Friedrich & Jim Starlin How: Jim Starlin

The Story So Far...
Rick Jones' girlfriend betrayed his love when she fingered him for a murder rap he didn't commit! When Captain Marvel goes looking for answers, he discovers poor Lou-Ann Savannah is a reluctant pawn in a cosmic conspiracy!

The Mad Titan Thanos plans intergalactic conquest starting with the planet Earth, and his scheme is being carried out by Skrull minions: Skragg and Kl'rt!

With the truth exposed: Captain Marvel is on the warpath -- but he's still reeling from the mind-games inflicted in a previous fight with the Skrulls! Super-Skrull has lured The Thing into a trap that paralyzes his vocal chords -- meaning the hero cannot object when Captain Marvel mistakes him for his shape-changing enemies!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Captain Marvel 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Captain Marvel 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Captain Marvel 6 (Generator)
Agility: Captain Marvel 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Captain Marvel 5 (Lasers)
Total: Captain Marvel 31 (Super)

Today's featured fight marks the first serious entry for the legendary Captain Marvel! Not to be confused with the original Captain Marvel of Fawcett [and DC] Comics fame! This one's a cosmic Kree warrior published by Marvel Comics!

We've actually seen the man called Mar-Vell on one prior occasion. An intriguing quirk of the Marvel Zombies universe is its retro timeline, which meant Captain Marvel lived long enough to become walking dead! We saw his zombie take serious damage from Silver Surfer back in Marvel Zombies (Vol. 1) #3!

In our universe: Captain Mar-Vell was a decorated hero of the Imperial Kree Space Fleet drawn into the grand plans of the Supreme Intelligence. He sent Mar-Vell to Earth as a spy, but his altruistic nature led him to use his unique powers to become a hero on Earth! He was eventually bound to Rick Jones, forcing one to dwell in the Negative Zone while the other existed in our reality.

Mar-Vell gained multiple power boosts in his time, developing super-human strength, speed, intelligence, reflexes, photon energy blasts, and cosmic awareness. He was also an accomplished combatant prior to gaining his powers.

Thing's no stranger to duking it out with cosmically aware opponents! As a member of the Fantastic Four he's faced the majority of cosmic threats, even battling the likes of Silver Surfer, Champion of the Universe, and Ronan!

In past features we've seen Thing take on villains from the Kree's rival empire: Paibok The Power Skrull [Fantastic Four #358], and Kl'rt the Super-Skrull [Fantastic Four (Vol. 2) #7]. The former was a typical triumph for the physically powerful hero, but the latter saw him outmatched by raw cosmic might!

Thing should outclass Mar-Vell in the strength department most days of the week, but The Captain has superior speed, reflexes, and the ability to fly. He's also a far more skilled technical combatant.

It's rarely a good idea to bet against the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing, but the versatility of Captain Marvel's abilities mean he's a real wildcard! Our Tape and Rankings can't agree. Let's find out how the fight went down!

The Tape: Captain Marvel Ranking: Thing (#10)

What Went Down...
Spotting The Thing skulking in the dark, Rick Jones remembers the recent deceptions of the villainous Skrulls and assumes the worst! He smacks the incredible Nega-Bands together to tag in the cosmic Captain Marvel!

The Kree soldier wastes no time launching an attack on the man he believes to be an unsuspecting foe! His left hook is fantastic enough to send even the mighty Thing flying uncontrollably through the air!

At first Thing thinks he's been attack by a Skrull in disguise, as well, but Marvel's belligerent berating puts the pieces together. As Thing recovers from the devastating punch, he realizes they've been set up!

With his vocal chords neutralized earlier by the insidious Skrulls, Thing has no choice but to let his rocky fists do his talking! He throws an all mighty right hand at the charging Captain - and then slams his head into a wall!

Rather than slow the Kree soldier down - it strengthens his resolve! Refusing to give up until he claims victory, Mar-Vell grapples with his hulking opponent and launches him through a nearby interior wall!

The impressive toss sends the pair deeper into the Skrull base, exposing a more hi-tech interior than the decrepit apartment they entered. Captain Marvel flies straight in like a missile targeting his powerful enemy!

Thing catches the airborne Captain with a devastating left hook to the chin that redirects the threat at a nearby steel wall!

Cap hits shoulder first, and before he can collect his footing: Thing uses his incredible strength to rip the steel floor up like it was mere carpeting! A gambit that successfully throws Captain Marvel into a carnage of interior structure!

Thing believes he has finally claimed victory, but Captain Marvel explodes from the wood and metal! Still mistaking his opponent for a deceptive Skrull, he snatches an exposed power cable and thrusts the live wire at Thing's chest!

Thousands of volts of electricity course untamed through Thing's body! He's down for the count, and with all that's been experienced leading up to this duel of mistaken identities -- Captain Marvel is ready to kill!

The Kree warrior forages for a jagged prong of metallic wreckage as Thing tries desperately to stir to his knees. Mar-Vell looms over his fallen opponent and raises the spike above his head to drive it down with a killing blow!

Yet! Only the floor feels the point of the improvised weapon!

Despite the terrible crimes the Skrulls have committed, Captain Marvel does not have it within his soul to murder a helpless man in cold-blood!

A good thing, too -- because Benjamin J Grimm is no villain! Fortunately, the jolt of electricity has counteracted the paralysis of his vocal chords! Recovering from the attack, he speaks for the first time - forging an alliance of heroes!

The Hammer...
Whoa! What the heck just happened?! Did Captain Marvel really just steamroll the Fantastic Four's resident muscle at half past clobberin' time?! It was such an intense slobber knocker -- I was hardly even paying attention to the result!

No prizes for guessing who's been reading Captain Marvel over Christmas! A deep dive back to the life of one of Marvel's forgotten heroes was exactly what the doctor ordered!

Nothing I say or do will capture the white-knuckle frenzy of seventies Captain Marvel! I've been hearing the phrase "gonzo" thrown around a lot to describe fast and loose comics coming out today -- but you don't know the meaning until you've treated yourself to this patch of potent publishing!

The 1970s and I don't always get along, and sometimes even Marvel comics from the decade can read a little dour. No such trouble in Captain Marvel, though! Every action is thrust with maximum intensity! Every judgment made to snap! One minute Rick Jones is betrayed by a lover -- the next moment Captain Marvel's yelling bloody murder as the walls collapse around him!

I tend to think of Jim Starlin writing cosmic opera in the nineties, but here he is two decades earlier as a proficient penciller, too!

The artwork reminds me of John Romita's account of working on Spider-man, and the editorial influence of Jack Kirby and exaggerated, non-stop action. Peter Parker doesn't fold his clothes neatly and take practical action to find a flagpole outside his window. He leaps out and explodes into web-swinging action! That ethos is very much here in just about every wide-eyed panel of Captain Marvel!

I suspect Starlin's large panels and melodramatic figures are key to injecting the wild energy spilling off every page. There's an enthusiastic, reckless vibe I would naively equate with a college  sensibility. Starlin was in his mid-twenties at the time, so that might not be such a bad reading.

I also wonder if the infamous circumstances of Captain Marvel's creation helps explain the reckless, erratic energy of the book. It may read like a Kirby-tinged cosmic rollercoaster, but it's a lot looser than anything The King put out!

Fawcett Comics stopped publishing the regular adventures of their original Captain Marvel in 1953. His reign as comics icon was partly ended by a successful suit from National Comics (later DC) for infringing on the basic copyright of their archetypal originator: Superman. This lapse in publication meant the "Captain Marvel" trademark expired -- and Marvel Comics pounced!

If Marvel was to maintain the trademark, they would have to continue to produce relevant publications. Even when Captain Marvel wasn't selling particularly well, the obligation to maintain the series remained.

Guaranteed publication and a flagging audience is a perfect storm for wild and unusual ideas! The editorial chains come loose, giving creative folks free reign to find an audience without fear of reprisal! That seemed to contribute to the revamp of Mar-Vell's design from retro spaceman to modern superhero. I imagine it was the impetus for letting a young Starlin loose, as well.

Whatever the reasons -- I'm enjoying the heck out of it! I love the cavalcade of guest heroes and villains who went through the series during this period, and I'm sure we'll be back some time in the future to talk more about them!

If you like what you've seen and want to read more about the life and times of Captain Marvel, be sure to check out the Amazon links provided. Doing so will put collected editions in your hot little hands - and help support the site at no extra charge!

If you're looking for more battles from the cosmic corners of the Marvel Universe, be sure to check out links to characters and featured fights found throughout this post. You can also dive into the Secret Archive to check out past featured fights index by publisher, series and issue!

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Winner: Captain Marvel
#160 (+279) Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)
#10 (--) Thing

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