Sunday, June 2, 2013

It all started with the Big Bang, part 4 (Issue #3)

Back with more Big Bang; last issue was squarely 50s (the Knight Watchman story) and 40s (the Badge story), but we're moving into more solidly Silver Age material now with a classic "Superdickery" style cover.

Again, can't help but notice how much more purple the body of the Knight Watchman's costume is on these covers, I imagine that's very deliberate. Also, take note of the yellow outline around the shield emblem, which mirrors the yellow oval Batman symbol.

Table of contents includes a dedication to the then-recently deceased Curt Swan, incidentally; all too appropriate, given that this story is specifically inspired by the material of Swan's tenure drawing everything Superman. Also, there's no Dr. Weird text story this time, so the headlining Ultiman story is a little longer than the ones we've seen up to now.

This is the first real Ultiman story, even taking the original Caliber run into account; it's here that you learn all about his background and stuff like that.

For instance, Chris King was an astronaut who gained his powers when his space capsule was hit by a radioactive meteor. Coincidentally, this resembles the backstory of the original Ultraman somewhat, as he was a human astronaut who gained powers from anti-kryptonite. Anyway, Ultiman has worked for the government ever since. And while his identity as Chris Kelly is known to the public and his co-workers, he has another...

I have to hand it to writer Gary Carlson; most "Superman"-types are mild-mannered glasses-sporting guys who work some print job; the Samaritan is a fact-checker, the Sentry wrote encyclopedias, and Supreme is a comic book artist, for instance. And, however obvious this charade would probably seem in real life, I think it's sort of cute that "Carl" being Chris' identical twin explains away the resemblance.

Chris, as Ultiman, emerges from his office, and is informed by Gen. Black that a giant robot is robbing the Empire City bank. Ultiman surmises this is the work of his arch-enemy Dexter Cortex, who is essentially Lex Luthor and Brainiac combined into one. Meanwhile, Lori is upset that Ultiman is always ignoring her -- why can't he be the Kelly brother always asking her out?

Cutting to the bank, we see that "giant robot" is a pretty generous description of Cortex's machine; it's basically a tank with arms that end in simple pincer hands. It's also green and purple, no doubt in reference to Lex Luthor's color scheme of choice. Cortex is a bald, bespectacled, scientist who, as a caption informs us, went insane after hooking his mind up to a computer. This probably has something to do with the antennae coming out of his head.

I'm also seeing a bit of Sivana in Cortex, but I don't know if that's intentional. Sorry, this is going to be a longer one, since as I said this introduces you to everything you need to know about Ultiman. Cortex blasts him with a strange ray gun, but it seems to have no effect besides turning the wall behind Ultiman into a mirror-like surface. When Ultiman grabs him, Cortex explodes, having been a robotic double all along. Ultiman hints that he may have never actually met or seen the real Cortex. Ultiman leaves, thinking Cortex's "mirror gun" was harmless enough, though he does take it to his Secret Citadel for study. However, as he leaves, the bystanders looking at the mirrored wall disperse to reveal that Ultiman's reflection remains.

Naturally, what follows is a "Superman III" style "Evil Superman" plotline, although it's one that had been done many times in comics prior to that movie. There's several different versions of "Evil Superman", not even counting Bizarro.

This guy is kind of like Bizarro, though, except he's evil and looks just like Ultiman. Chris, as Carl, hears about this evil Ulitiman from a newspaper story, and knows the only way to clear his name is to venture out as Ultiman to get to the bottom of this. His first stop is his Secret Citadel, located in an active volcano and accessed via giant combination lock. There, he finds all of the evil Ultiman's stolen loot, as well as a busted up Ultiman robot

I feel like Ultiman is missing some key data, namely that he totally didn't do any of this stuff. I don't know about you, but I would suspect an impostor at this point. The Knight Watchman heads to the Citadel himself looking for answers, using the Flying Shield's laser to enter the door's combination, and in a classic "cover straight up lies to you" twist, he discovers Ultiman about to kill himself with the atomic chair. The Knight Watchman unplugs it before he has the chance, and vows to prove that his friend is innocent.

Just then, the other Ultiman, "Reverso", arrives at the Citadel to store more loot. Again, he looks identical to Ultiman, but it turns out he's "backwards" -- he's left handed, his fingerprints are backwards, and he even talks backwards.

Their fight eventually takes them to the original mirror wall. Reverso tries to smash the mirror, but Ultiman realizes this must be the key to stopping him. The Knight Watchman, lying in wait, shouts for Ultiman to duck as he fires the mirror gun. Naturally, Ultiman ducks, but Reverso doesn't, and he's sent back into the mirror, which Ultiman smashes before anything else has a chance to come out of it. Later, Lori receives flowers from Ultiman and jokes that if everyone had an opposite number, Carl's would be a real saint. "Carl" winks at the reader and the story comes to a close.

Time to move on with the Thunder Girl story

That's right, two consecutive "evil double" stories in this one. And I just want to say, I find Binana way too comical considering the fact that I'm older than 7. I also can't get enough of that "big green cheesecake" thing; naturally, it's something he calls Thunder Girl all the time. As it happens, I'm not going to insult your intelligence by explaining what all this stuff represents vs. Captain Marvel, since any braindead moron knows.

So the story opens with Binana behind bars -- at the zoo, naturally. They can imprison his body but they can't inhibit his intellect, so he's still a genius inventor and can still talk. He effects an escape by using a "brain extender' he created to control a nearby gorilla, forcing it to pry open the bars to its cage, and thereafter his. In his underground lair, Binana's mind starts working towards creating an enemy Thunder Girl can't possibly defeat.

Weeks later, high school student Molly Wilson witnesses notorious bank robbers Penny and Claude escaping from the scene of their latest heist. Naturally, she's Thunder Girl, and turns into her. 

A couple items of interest (in my opinion): one, the transformation is triggered by a magic word and a physical action, essentially a combination of Captain Marvel and Mar-Vell's transformation triggers. Two, I don't know that Thunder Girl is all that different looking from Molly, which is unusual for your Captain Marvel takeoffs. 

So when Thunder Girl catches up with them, they go through the old "shoot the invulnerable hero" bit and TG  effortlessly nabs Claude... only for Penny to seemingly conjure up strong winds and turn into th villainous Tornado Girl, seen two pics ago. A way too long flashback explains how Binana gave her the ability to turn into, uh, evil Thunder Girl. When the two come to blows, Thunder Girl goes down early and is brought to Binana's lab for, you know, research. Before she can be strapped to an operating table, however, she reveals she had been playing possum all along, and she quickly incapacitates Binana and Penny with a power that Captain Marvel doesn't have -- the ability to generate electricity from her body. Claude gives up, and soon Thunder Girl is hauling them to wherever they belong.

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