Friday, 25 October 2013

The Exploitation of Dr. Doom and Spider-Man

When I reviewed The Amazing Spider-Man #4, I compared the recent Spidey story lines to wrestling matches in that they are essentially pair ups of outrageous characters going up against a no-holds-barred vigilante. Up until then this thematic had worked to create great comic yarns. This time, it did not and this failure is surprising. It is surprising because the antagonist chosen is the well established, fan favourite, Dr. Doom. This issue proves that action for the sake of action, while superficially entertaining, ends up being empty when the reader wises up to the scheme. 

In September 1963 Marvel was crossover mad. They had just risked it all by teaming up mediocre solo performing lines like Thor, Ant-Man and Iron-Man into the Marvel answer to the Justice League: The Avengers. Spider-Man was not invited to that party as his line was the top selling title. This popularity was astounding considering lines like Fantastic Four and Journey Into Mystery had triple the amount of stories and The Amazing Spider-Man was comparatively young. Spider-Man struck a core with readers. To capitalize on that popularity, Stan Lee thought it a good idea to combine the most popular villain (at the time) with the most popular superhero. The stunt makes sense on paper but when reading through the issue it doesn’t pan out. Probably, because the exploitation is so transparent. 

The story begins so well! 

Peter Parker is dealing with jibes and barbs from Flash Thompson while we, as the reader, are privy to the knowledge of Pete’s alter-ego. This knowledge touches the part of every nerd’s heart that yearns to be secretly powerful in the face of bullying. Suddenly, an armoured figure appears over a screen, depicting the schoolyard theatre, suggesting that there is something larger then this teenage drama. Dr. Doom is far worse then any bullying red headed, sweater clad, ‘cool guy.’ Alas, that’s the end of plausibility and excitement for this issue because absurd Lee ‘science’ begins from this point on. Doom, wanting to reach out to Spider-Man because he still smarts from the last encounter with the Fantastic Four and needs a friend, uses the energy waves that are supposedly emanated from spiders to contact Spidey. The idea that any character can just tap into an energy to communicate with any creature is absurd! If anybody can do it, then Ant-Man is negated to being just a really small guy. The whole idea smacks of laziness and convention. 

Lee’s laziness continues when he has Doom offer friendship to Peter then turn around and attack him. Doom is many things but unhinged is not one of them. Historically, it is Doom’s logical calculations that have made him a formidable foe. This irrationality is out of character and serves to leave the resulting conflict empty and without tension. These two characters are going through the motions, albeit very entertaining and well drawn motions. Ditko’s artwork far outreaches the work of Jack Kirby and ably constructs a rich, colourful environment. 

Flash’s accidental capture is the most interesting part of this issue.

The Wasted Flash Thompson moment. 
Thompson gets his hands on an identical Spider-Man costume and attempts to ambush the unsuspecting Parker. Flash believes that Pete is the worst type of coward; afraid of literally everything. The ambush fails and he ends up the prisoner of a very inexplicably angry Dr. Doom. Another irrational moment brought to you by a bastardized Dr. Doom. How can an armour clad Dr. Doom capture a neon red spandex wearing superhero in the middle of a New York road without being seen by anybody?  Certainly not a great plan. The only thing missing from the plan is a baby sans lollipop. This mistaken identity could have been a great twist but is never capitalized on.

What a wasted opportunity. Imagine the story possibility with New York thinking that Spider-Man was the jerky red head jock Flash Thompson. The anger that would have overtaken Pete would be legendary. 

There is much criticism against comics as an important medium. Many believe they are empty, sensationally written, pulp literature. We as comic nerds know otherwise, but when hastily written story lines like this come about, it is very difficult to make the case for the literary significance of Superhero comics. Action, while entertaining, means nothing when character is sacrificed for explosions and ‘what if’ scenarios. What a shame that the two most legendary and 3 dimensional characters of the Marvel Silver Age were sacrificed to sell a large amount of issues. 

Rating: 2 out of 5

Pros: The Art, Spider-Man’s sardonic quips to a rarely tested Dr. Doom and canonicity. 

Cons: Improbable and poorly thought out motivation. Questionable logic. Dr. Doom’s out of character irrationality without explanation. The coincidental nature of the whole issue. 

 Upcoming Review: “The Living Bomb” (Strange Tales #112 Sept 1963)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The First Avengers Team and Marvel Hierarchy

The Story I read: “The Coming of the Avengers” (The Avengers #1 Sept, 1963)

Even the cover feels reverential.
It occurred to me today that my readers on the Marvel wikia are in the dark as to the reason I decided to launch this journey through the complete Marvel comic universe. As my blog followers are already aware, I am an avid DC fan and write often for a lot of fan blogs on DC related topics, particularly Hellblazer. Recently, I became interested in some of the work of Marvel, namely the additions to X-Men, which stirred in me a want to become more familiar with the Marvel Universe as a whole. Not knowing where to start, I plunged into the full comic library and began to write reviews for each one. That was 72 issues ago. 

If there is checkpoints in this quest, the premiere of the Avengers would be the first. It is this moment that a loose knit group of ragtag characters became beings that inhabited a whole far reaching world. Sure, there had been crossovers before this, but they always seemed to be special events that were often hastily written exhibitions stemming from fan requests. This issue, however, is the moment that showed Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and the other Marvel creatives wanted to construct a vast comic gallery that would be able to compete with the massive and older DC counterpart. Reading this story felt almost like a religious moment; if comic fandom could be considered such. 

This story reveals a glimpse into how the Silver Age Marvel world works. On the face of  this, it is a caper flick, not unlike The Dirty Dozen. A group of rag tag Superheros come together to defeat a common enemy.

 Thus enters the Incredible Hulk. 

...Wait a minute. The antagonist is actually Loki. Never mind that, neither Ant-Man, Wasp, or Iron-Man can pose any threat to the trickster god so only Thor confronts him. The rest pursue the supposed villainous Hulk only to find out that he is not such a bad guy. He’s just a circus performing monster who was the victim of an Asgardian plot. I waster 20 pages on this? Is not every Hulk story to date?

This is the problem of Hulk and probably the reason for his lack of success in the period; he is too believable as the villain. He is a selfish, violent monster, who is out for his own survival. Not to mention he is a malady to Bruce Banner. Hulk is difficult to spin as a legitimate hero, for he lacks humanity and a moral code, the two prerequisites for a superhero. It is telling that the Disney Marvel film franchise has had such trouble translating the character to film, till Joss Whedon of course figured it out by making Jekyll and Hyde one: “I’m always angry.” - Says Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce. In the Silver Age, Hulk was not the result of rage as depicted in modern Marvel but is a character that bares more resemblance to Jekyll/Hyde. Perhaps, it was pages devoted to Thor’s solo adventure that happened proper development for Big Green. 

Thor’s contribution to this story bares more similarity to an issue of Journey Into Mystery then as a team up with the Avengers. The moment he found out that Loki had a plot to capture him he flew away to Asgard to fight. The three others duked it out on Earth. This is not the actions of a team mate. There is no group cohesion in this story and I blame it on haphazard writing. The group comes together out of happenstance which results in a themeless issue. Weirdly, this is not the case with the film, which was vaguely inspired by this plot, because of the creation of the S.H.I.E.L.D. assemblage. 

I felt empty at the end of what should have been a fantastic experience. 

I also wonder why it was these five characters that were chosen to be a part of the first Avengers crew. It makes sense that Dr. Strange is not included as he has only had two stories devoted to him by this point and frankly they were very odd. I doubt Stan Lee intended the good Doctor to be a common fixture. The Fantastic Four, though creatively mentioned in the story, have really nothing to do with the creation of the Avengers. This is strange as some time has been spent making the Four (particularly Jonny Storm) the flag ship line. Perhaps, their was a fear that the Four’s egos, the topic of my last review, would over power these less established characters. I for one would have enjoyed a Tony Stark comic lashing of Thing. I know it will come in the future. 

Overall, this is a very messy issue with some really great action with Hulk, and some brilliant use of Ant-Man and Wasp, also some wonderful art by Kirby. Yet, there is an absence of Iron-Man, wasted focus on Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade, and confusion as to the plot. I give this one a 3 out of 5. I flirted with a lower mark but it felt sacrilegious as this Issue is so important and a gamble of an undertaking. This makes the endeavour as a whole, respectable.  

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Cold War Xenophobia and The Fantastic Four

The Story I Read: “A Skrull Walks Among Us!” (Fantastic Four #18, Sept 1963)

The Super-Skrull in action.
When I first saw the title of this issue, I held out little hope for a good story as the dreaded word ‘Skrull’ was in the title. The Skrulls made an earlier appearance in the Fantastic Four (issue #2) and it is etched into my mind as a hokey pathetic story that had all the wrong kind of camp. With expectations low, I dove in and, happily, I was surprised. This issue, while no means Earth shattering, is a hilarious little romp that plays with the major weaknesses of the Four. Namely, their egos.

Skrulls are pathetic looking creatures that are reminiscent of frogs and strike me as a fairy tale remnant of the penny dreadfuls Marvel used to create in the Golden Age. Stan Lee attempts to shake that reputation by coming up with a very smart plan for them to beat the Four at their own game. The masters of ‘Skrulldom’ create a Super-Skrull that possesses all the Four’s individual powers in greater quantities. It is established the Skrulls possess some sort of malleability so they seem to create this Super-Skrull in some earlier experiment not discussed. When the fun begins I didn’t care much that I had no clue how the Super-Skrull was created. The fight begins and as is standard Fantastic Four battle strategy each character launches themselves individually to face the extraterrestrial villain. One by one they are all predictably defeated and run back to the penthouse to come up with a new strategy. The plan turns out to be to fool the Super-Skrull into a live burial.  Long story short, they team up, fool the ‘ultra-Frog’ and leave him to die in a hole.  If it weren’t for all the laughs this would be a terrible story. 

Campiness aside this story does have an interesting theme; a theme that has reared its head countless times in these issues. Aliens seem to invade Earth on the regular. Ignoring the fact that highly idiotic normal folk continue going on with their simple lives pretending aliens do not exist and gods aren’t tossing their hammers around New York, it’s astounding that every alien race seems to come to Earth in a petty attempt to destroy superheroes and not, you know, rape the Earth of its resources or resettle the planet. What does this say about the mindset of the 60s sci-fi reader and writer? There is a belief prevalent in which every foreigner and alien wants to destroy the American way of life. This is an expression of Cold War xenophobia which permeated the Red mad West of the time. These stories open a glimpse to the anxieties of the common bread eating full blooded 60s American. Their lives were not all about going to the department store and getting an ice cream float. While they were happy, perhaps the happiest in American history, they lived under the constant threat of dominance and destruction from the Soviets (real or invented, it’s what they believed). It is the duty of every American super hero therefore to destroy or torture anything that doesn't belong. I’d love to see a positive alien force in one of these issues  because the invasion story line is really getting tired. 

As I mentioned before, there is some great moments of humour in this issue. The Four go on a hilarious shopping trip that descends into chaos when they become bombarded with fans.  I laughed as each character in their own way escaped what must surely be a burden to public personalities. The metahumour is many times the best part of the Fantastic Four. By this point Fantastic Four have almost become parodic; less like a series and more like a comment on comics as a medium. 

The art is improving. Detailed backgrounds have become de rigueur and there is a cleanliness to action that was not there even two issues ago. Jack Kirby’s Reed Richard’s facial features have become soft and it looks like he is attempting to shave some years and harshness off his formerly forbidding persona. Maybe in an effort to make the relationship between Reed and Sue more believable. 

This issue is a 3 out of 5. A mundane storyline with a great sense of humour and not a lot to moan about. I remain curious as to the future of the buried Super-Skrull.   
A Cartoon Showing the Irrational Fear of Communism

The Beast Within Captain Kirk (My Trek Through Trek - Part V)

What we’re watching: “The Enemy Within” Episode 4, Season 1 of TOS (October 6, 1966)

My Rating Out of 5 Tribbles: 3 Tribbles that think they are “THE CAPTAIN OF THE SHIP!” 

My After Episode Thoughts: “A brilliant performance that places Shatner in the pantheon of the acting gods.”

Pros: Shatner’s performance, Epic moment in McCoy history, did I mention Shatner’s performance?

Cons: Spock’s supposed logic, Sulu’s B-Plot, the chauvinism, the damned dog in an alien suit!

Shatner Giving IT ALL HE'S GOT!
If there was any doubt that William Shatner is one of the most important and special actors in television history, this episode should put all of them to rest. From the opening moment when we see Beast Kirk materialize on the transporter deck, his presance is astounding.  The way he uses his eyes and physicality to embody his alter-ego’s predatory nature is no easy feet for any actor. Kirk’s two sides are clearly set up as opposites and there is not a lazy moment in which we can see this conceit. His two characterizations are grabbed by the throat and he forces the watcher to believe that his personality has literally split in two. 

William Shatner raves aside, this episode is sadly ‘run of the mill’ and backward. The sexism of the last episode is still frighteningly present. At one point Beast Kirk attempts to rape the unsuspecting Yeoman Rand in a scene that is unsettling and ahead of its time in brutality. The result is a moment that is very unusual for the largely melodramatic television of 60s. A moment of real fear. Grace Lee Whitney who played Yeoman Rand says in her memoir that to achieve the right kind of brutality for the scene Shatner slapped her to catch her off guard. Bill is truly a man that goes into these things full throttle and I wonder if that kind of conduct would be tolerated in this day. 

After this frightening moment the crew allows the Captain interrogate Rand after she accuses him of attempted rape. The prospect of a suspected rapist interviewing the victim is an unpalatable idea and dates the episode horribly. The final dialogue of the episode, uttered by Spock, further serves to paint the show with a chauvinistic brush. Spock suggests to Rand that Beast Kirk had some desirable qualities for a mate. This strikes me as an extremely insensitive and barbaric comment. Trekkers might attribute this up to Spock’s coldly logical nature. I, however, believe it is the result of dated chauvinistic writing, and it really put me off my overall experience. 

Further, I question Spock’s logic in this episode. Usually his logical explanations are entirely on the mark, but in the case of this episode, I am not sure. When Kirk denies the misdeeds that are perpetrated by Beast Kirk, Spock arrives at the conclusion that there must be an impostor aboard the ship. Is this really the most logical answer? Is it not more logical, that with the example of all these crew member's accusations, Kirk maybe lying? No character ever entertains that idea. This seems like a missed opportunity narratively. 

Then again, the episode only had so much time to cover the main story as a lot of screen was wasted on a distracting B-plot. Crew members are freezing on the planet and cannot return to the ship because the transporter is down. In later episodes this conundrum would be fixed by a shuttle bay, but this is still early in the series so no one obviously thought of this yet. The B-Plot only serves to distract from the far more interesting core plot of Kirk’s issues. 

There are two fantastic moments that occur in this episode and they served to etch themselves into Star Trek Lore.First, there is a poor dog in an alien costume that is tossed from character to character. It is the most distracting prop/character I think I have ever seen. The stuffed carcass that later doubles for him would have served better then a nervous canine covered in rainbow fluff. Nevertheless this canine’s performance is iconic and is a running gag in Trekkerdom. Second, this is the first episode in which McCoy explodes toward Jim that something is dead

This was the best they could do?

When it happened I actually applauded. It was like the feeling the Wright Brothers must have had at Kitty Hawk. 

What a wondrous moment! 

All problems aside, this episode remains the moment Shatner stepped out from space oddity to the mythological titanic force that he became known for. I am happy I witnessed it but sad it was in a terrible episode. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Power of Legend: Thor vs. Merlin

Story I Read: "Defying the Magic of Mad Merlin" (Journey Into Mystery #96 Sept 1963)

I am now a good way into the early mythos of Thor and many questions are beginning to flood my mind. Of the many niggling ones, one over arcing macro query haunts me every time I read Mighty Thor. That question is: what is the nature of an Asgardian? Are they aliens as later comics attest, other dimensional beings or Gods and therefore divine? Thankfully this story begins to expand upon the difference between the legend and actuality. 

Certainly not the Merlin of Disney
Stan Lee presents us with two characters, that are quite well known throughout literature, and attempts to subvert our understanding of them. In the comics thus far, we have already come to know one of them, Thor, and have only vaguely heard of the other, Merlin. The Norse Thor is the benevolent and sometimes wrathful thunder god; an oxymoronic character, but show me a religious icon that isn’t. His religious self is infallible and unable to be faulted. Marvel’s Thor however, speaking from only what has been offered in Silver Age Marveldom thus far, is a heightened being that is in no way divine. In this story we learn that he needs to breathe. This seems like a self evident idea but serves as a kind of revelation considering  he does occasionally venture into space without the aide of oxygen. We learn, here, that Thor can hold his breath for a long time. Lee successfully busts this god’s divinity with this one idea and puts him on a playing field that is equal to the other mortal superheroes with which he shares Earth-616. He is not omnipotent and therefore able to have other nemeses other then his own kind. 

When Merlin vacates his sarcophagus in 1963, we are presented with a second character that not only equals Thor in his supernatural powers, but also, what is more important, in his legend. Merlin, up to this point in literature, the 60s the being time of the renaissance of T.H. White and the popularity of the musical Camelot, is often depicted as a kind and wise magical sorcerer that prompted the mythical King Arthur to ascend and found the throne of England. Lee on the other hand depicts him as a malevolent Machiavellian wizard who uses human puppets to consolidate his “master plan,” which appears to be world domination. What a fantastic idea and wholly creative. Not only does this story call Merlin’s oft-believed motivations into question, it also suggests that there is nothing magical about his composition but that he is a human mutant, like the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. Some suggest he a maybe a forerunner to the genetic mutants of X-Men. I’m not sure the back story presented here backs up that claim. Not to mention Uncanny X-Men is still very far in the Silver Age future and the idea of mutants in that sense is not yet present in Marveldom. I think the conjecture of the creation of Merlin as the first genetic mutant and therefore the basis for his later X-Men appearances is the work of over zealous fanboys.   

The subversion of Legend vs. Reality is further used in the climax of the story. Thor usually beats his non divine enemies by using brute strength or some fancy hammer play. A strategy like this against Merlin is easily shot down, literally. After this failure, Thor, instead uses his dubious human identity, Dr. Donald Blake, to fool Merlin into thinking that Asgardians are omnipotent and can change into any form they see fit.  This not only brings the mad wizard to prostrate in surrender it what it more important plays with the power of icons. Thor’s possible and largely unsubstantiated divinity defeats Merlin. Thor’s reputation is more mysterious and ancient than Merlin’s so it causes the wizard to doubt himself. Thor’s legend is stronger. What an idea. 

I know I spend many of these reviews harping on the hasty and often poorly thought out writing of Stan Lee but do not assume that these criticisms come from a disrespect for the father of Marvel. Sometimes he writes stories like these that show the far reaching literary power that comics can possess. This one is a 5 out of 5. It is an essential read that explains the difference between Marvel and DC. Whereas DC is all about the legend, Marvel is all about the reality.  This story has far reaching impact and should be on all essential reading lists. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Authenticity of Spider-Man

Story I Read: "Nothing Can Stop The Sandman" (The Amazing Spider-Man #4 Sept 1963) 

It says a lot that back in Amazing Fantasy, when Peter Parker made his debut, the first thing he decided to use his new found powers for was as a professional wrestler. Since then every one of his later issues were match-ups: Spider-Man. Vs. The Vulture, Spider-Man Vs. Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man Vs. Invaders from outer space.  Spider-Man’s villains up to this point concoct no complex or unintelligible plot to bring down the young superhero, they merely challenge him and a great match ensues. These characters face off in the arena of New York and it is fantastic. 

Ding Ding! Round 4! Spider-Man Vs. Sandman. 

Flint Marko makes his first sandy appearance in this one and he catches Pete in the middle of a teenage quandary.  As we have learned up to this point in Spidey’s very short career, Pete’s success at defeating his nemeses is directly proportional to how much turmoil is going on in his teenage life. At this point, Pete is up to webbing in teenage turmoil. He has a date with calmly Liz who seems to be head of the cheerleading squad or some A crowd. In classic Flash Thompson cruel fashion she’s doing it out of charity. Pete doesn’t notice for he’s obsessed by how he can defeat the vastly more powerful Sandman and forgets his once in a lifetime chance with the Queen Bee. This is what I and no doubt the countless fans in this period love about The Amazing Spiderman. He is the one character that truly embodies the Silver Age Marvel mandate to bring reality to the Superhero comic. Whether its Pete’s inability to resew his costume after Sandman rips his mask or his preemptively hasty and therefore illegal take down of some suspicious characters outside of a jewelry store, everything about this issue feels authentic and realistic. 

Honourable mention the Dr. Kildare reference. 

Spider-Man's Revenge!!!! Take that Triple J!
This issue isn’t all roses. The failures all generally lie in the two antagonists. Sandman’s origin story of escaping a prison and then getting exposed to a radioactive test is a tad wild and out of step with the rest of the mythology being created. The two other villains presented up to this point in the comics, came from a place of heightened reality, Vulture was a skilled robber who used gliding technology to enhance his abilities and Dr. Octopus was born out of science gone too far. Spidey’s origin story is similar. Sandman’s on the other hand results from happenstance and the evils of weaponization. It makes much more sense in the mythology of Hulk. It also is essentially the same origin story of the Hulk of this period. Something about Flint Marko seems lazy but this laziness does not hamper the progression of the story and this issue remains a wildly entertaining ride. 

The other antagonist, J. Jonah Jameson, continues his absurd vendetta against Spider-Man. He even believes that Sandman and Spider-Man maybe the same man. Why doesn’t New York realize that J. Jonah Jameson is bat shit crazy?

Looking at this issue as a whole it is very much in a different league then the other work of this period. It is human, fresh and wildly entertaining. Not even the much more established Fantastic Four can compete with Spider-Man. No wonder these issues flew off the shelf. Looking at this issue in competition with only Spider-Man it is somewhere in the middle. It has great moments of charm but it is rather simplistic in plot and characterization. The art is also as detailed as Silver Age comics get. 3 1/2 out of 5.  Had the character of Sandman been more explored, it would have received a higher score. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Anthony Stark's Fake Cleopatra

Story I Read: "The Mad Pharoah" (Tales of Suspense#44 Aug 1963)

In 1963, the world was Cleopatra and Ancient Egyptian mad. This was not because of some crazy dance move that reminded folks of Egyptians walking. No, it is was because the King and Queen of Hollywood, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, were preparing to star as history’s most famous lovers in what would turn out to be one of the most expensive flops in history. That ill fated movie was Cleopatra and this film would spur an obsession with all things Coptic. This obsession even trickled its way into the Marvel universe. 

When I first saw the title page of the Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense #44 I nearly tossed the article away and moved on to, surely, what would be a more fulfilling story. Alas my conscience got the better of me. I felt like I was violating some impossible code I had sworn to myself so I resigned to my sofa to plunge in. As the first few panels careened by I was enjoying the charm of the story. Tony is whisked away to the sandy dunes of Egypt to join in on an archaeological dig a where he finds that things are really tough to see through a stone wall. Never fear, Iron Man happens to be on vacation in the Sahara so he stops by to use his laser cutters to get through the four thousand year old wall. Yes, this story once cost 12 cents. 

With every passing issue the facade of Tony and Iron Man is getting weaker and weaker. Even the editors are beginning to notice as there is one of the worst examples of strained dialogue occurs when Tony attempts to explain why Iron Man happens to be on the dark continent. There is certainly some meta humour here. I hope. It is reminiscent of the strained excuses Torch cooked up to his friends which were later proven to be futile. We are nearing the breaking point I can feel it. 

Sadly these charming little quirks are the best part of the story. On page 5, Tony is waving goodbye to his doctor friend when suddenly Hatap appears and drags him back in time. This happens out of nowhere and I had to reread it many times because the switch is so abrupt that I thought a panel was missing. Anyway,Tony gets sucked back in time to Ptolemaic Egypt to help Hatap defeat the siren of the Nile. This is where things get really confusing. 

History teaches us that Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius staged an outright revolution against the ruling Caesar Augustus which caused them to be besieged by the Roman forces. This revolution culminated in the sea battle of Actium and the deaths of the couple. In Iron Man’s history however the Romans seem to be besieging Cleopatra in her palace.  This never occurred. She was involved in a civil war with her brother but this was aided by the Romans under the command of Julius Caesar and she was only a young girl. She’s a full grown woman here. Its almost as if the writers (Stan Lee again) had not the most basic knowledge of one of the most well known stories in history. This invented history frustrated me to no end because when Iron Man ultimately weighs the battle in her favor it happens in a situation that never occurred. Yes, I accept that this is fantasy, I mean time travel and all, but it frustrates me because it is so far from history. There was a great possibility here of a fantastic time travel yarn that could have far reaching effects on the future Marvel universe but it turns out to be a weak, pointless, unintelligible story.

Stan should have gone to the theatres to see how he got an extremely well known story way off. Cleopatra would have sold one more badly needed ticket. What a wasted issue. 1 out of 5. 
Sitting through this melodramatic wankfest is far more worth doing then reading this issue.