Monday, October 26, 2020

SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN PART 6

APRIL 10TH, 1972 - JUNE 17TH, 1972
JUNE 19TH, 1972 - SEPTEMBER 9TH, 1972
SEPTEMBER 11TH, 1972 - NOVEMBER 25TH, 1972
NOVEMBER 27TH, 1972 - FEBRUARY 3RD, 1973
FEBRUARY 5TH, 1973 - MAY 19TH, 1973
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Corrigan's next story arc perfectly represents simultaneously the most frustrating thing about the Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson run, and some of the best of their work. The frustration kicks things off. As is the case more often than not, we're jumping into a new storyline cold turkey, with no mention of what went on before. When last we saw Corrigan, remember, he had returned to the United States with Lushan, and had thwarted Doctor Seven's plan to find a financial backer for his terrorist organization, Triad. Any rationally functioning brain would expect to see Corrigan dwelling on such a high-profile adventure as the next arc begins. But no, Corrigan has totally moved on. He's now at Cape Meridian to investigate threats against the first U.S. space station -- which is fine on its own, but he should at least be thinking a bit about Seven as the adventure opens.

I know I'm beating a long-dead horse at this point, but it's just such a letdown to read a serialized comic strip that isn't really serialized, especially when I know, from their work on STAR WARS in the eighties, that Goodwin and Williamson are more than capable of producing just such a beast. Why they treat Corrigan in such a painfully episodic fashion is beyond me.

But on the plus side, as I mentioned above, the rest of the arc is actually quite good. The space station is bombed and three astronauts are trapped in a capsule orbiting Earth, with twenty days of oxygen and no way to make it home. What follows is a tense sequence as scientists on Earth rush to complete a rescue craft while Corrigan works to uncover the bomber, who he knows is operating from within NASA, before he can strike again. And the conclusion is somewhat surprising and exceptionally suspenseful.

Friday, October 23, 2020

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x005

"MEET CAPTAIN AMERICA"
Written by Paul Giacoppo | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: In the distant future, Kang the Conqueror watches the exploits of Captain America in World War II. In it, Cap and his partner, Bucky, along with the Howling Commandos, invade the Red Skull's castle. Inside, Cap and Bucky fight a monster, then are captured by the Red Skull, who reveals that he has discovered a gateway to Asgard.


As Cap and Bucky watch, the Skull has the gateway opened and a frost giant begins to emerge. Cap and Bucky break loose and attack Hydra, but a power surge causes several Asgardian beasts the Skull had imprisoned in stasis to break free. In the ensuing battle, Buckey defeats Strucker while Cap closes the gateway. The Skull attempts escape, but Cap and Bucky pursue and leap onto his jet. The Skull bails out, and Bucky gets stuck in a cable. He kicks Cap off the jet, and as the Star-Spangled hero sinks into the arctic sea, the jet explodes.

His viewing complete, Kang travels back in time to the battle, apparently waiting for Cap to emerge from the water, but it never happens. Kang is the called back to his spacecraft, where he learns that a temporal rupture is in process and his timeline is being wiped out, somehow due to Captain America. Kang sets course for the past to correct this problem, but just before he departs, his love, Ravonna is caught in the rupture. Kang vows to save her and the timeline.

Monday, October 19, 2020

SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN PART 5

OCTOBER 19TH, 1971 - JANUARY 30TH, 1971
FEBRUARY 1ST, 1971 - MAY 1ST, 1971
MAY 3RD, 1971 - JULY 31ST, 1971
AUGUST 2ND, 1971 - OCTOBER 16TH, 1971
OCTOBER 18TH, 1971 - JANUARY 8TH, 1972
JANUARY 10TH, 1972 - APRIL 8TH, 1972
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

It may suffer the same issues of light continuity and no real stakes that I've spent the past few weeks complaining about, but Corrigan's next adventure does at least venture into some unique territory for the character! In this one, the U.S. State Department gets wind of a plane found in South America, belonging to a believed-dead scientist who the government would like to have back -- or at least, whose research they would like! Corrigan is placed on temporary assignment with the State Department to investigate -- but the Soviet Union has also learned about the plane, and dispatches an operative to team up with Corrigan in his search.

The Soviet operative turns out to be the beautiful Colonel Tanya Greb, and she joins Corrigan, his pilot Parez, and Professor Stone (an archaeologist from a previous Goodwin/Williamson arc) to investigate. Stone is along due to the fact that some dinosaur bones were improbably found in the plane, and carbon dating says that they're only a couple hundred years old. So as you might imagine, before long, the group finds their way into a land lost to time -- a prehistoric jungle in the rainforest, where dinosaurs still live!

The ensuing adventure sees our heroes locate the missing scientist, Professor Branveldt, work to repair their crashed helicopter while evading T-Rexes in the jungle, and eventually escape via raft as the entire lost world collapses around them. This arc is about as far from the standard law-enforcement procedural that we usually get from Corrigan, and veers far into high adventure territory -- and I love it for that. I don't think all of the strip's woes are suddenly solved here, but at least we have a nice diversion into some uncharted territory to liven things up for a bit.

Friday, October 16, 2020

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x004

"THE MAN IN THE ANT HILL"
Written by Christopher Yost | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Ulysses Klaw and a band of mercenaries attack a SHIELD installation outside of Wakanda, where scientist Hank Pym is working as an advisor. Pym shrinks to become Ant-Man and fights back. He takes out the mercs and sends Klaw packing. Later, back in the United States, Pym's girlfriend and "manager", Janet van Dyne (the Wasp) fights the super-criminal called Whirlwind. Ant-Man catches up with her to help take the villain out.


Later, Ant-Man and the Wasp drop Whirlwind off with Nick Fury aboard the SHIELD helicarrier. Fury tries to recruit the duo to his group, but Pym refuses. Fury reveals that Whirlwind was working for Klaw, trying to steal vibranium for him.

In Wakanda, King T'Chaka, the Black Panther, is challenged by M'Baku, the Man-Ape -- leader of the White Gorilla tribe. T'Chaka lays low his foe, but is sniped by a sonic cannon that throws him off balance and allows Man-Ape to win their duel. T'Chaka is killed, and Man-Ape seizes the Wakandan throne. T'Chaka's son, T'Challa, escapes and takes up the mantle of Black Panther. In the aftermath, M'Baku gives his ally, Klaw, some of Wakanda's vibranium.

Monday, October 12, 2020

SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN PART 4

SEPTEMBER 1ST, 1969 - NOVEMBER 15TH, 1969
NOVEMBER 17TH, 1969 - FEBRUARY 7TH, 1970
FEBRUARY 9TH, 1970 - MAY 2ND, 1970
MAY 4TH, 1970 - JULY 25TH, 1970
JULY 27TH, 1970 - OCTOBER 17TH, 1970
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Corrigan's next adventure begins as he and his wife, Wilda, vacation in the Riviera while he recuperates from a gunshot wound sustained in the prior arc. But the couple's romantic getaway is quickly interrupted when Kasim, the prince of a nation called Turistan, becomes smitten with Wilda and kidnaps her to become his bride (he needs to marry posthaste in order to ascend to the throne). Corrigan follows them back to Turistan in a chartered plane, but runs out of fuel and lands near the castle of Sarkhan, Kasim's sinister cousin. Phil is captured by Sarkhan, but a beautiful servant named Yasmina, secretly loyal to Kasim, helps him escape.

Meanwhile, Kasim has realized the error of his ways and wants to return Wilda to her husband -- but his palace is attacked by Sarkhan, plotting a coup with the aid of a mercenary troupe. Corrigan and Yasmina arrive, and Corrigan helps Kasim defeat his cousin, returning control of Turistan to its rightful prince, who finds in Yasmina the wife he had wanted.

It's a bit weird, but there's sort of a FLASH GORDON vibe in this one. Desert palaces were not an uncommon sight in Alex Raymond's run on that strip, and Wilda's predicament here echoes Dale Arden's periodic imprisonments by Ming the Merciless -- occasions during which he would typically dress her in skimpy attire and lust after her, trying to force her into marriage. But beyond that, there's nothing particularly special about this arc. We're getting back to the rut I noted a couple weeks ago, where there's no continuity to speak of and it never feels like anyone is in any real danger, which means the strip itself feels like it's going through the motions.

Friday, October 9, 2020

AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES S1x003

"THOR THE MIGHTY!"
Written by Michael Ryan | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Thor intervenes when the Wrecking Crew attempts to steal a Stark Enterprises gamma ray emitter. As soon as the battle is done, Thor is summoned to Asgard by Heimdall, who tells him the realm is under siege. Thor arrives to defend Asgard from Loki and the frost giants. Thor drives off the giants, but Loki ambushes him. However the Thunder God refuses to give in and defeats his brother.


Thor brings Loki before Odin, who banishes the villain to the Isle of Silence. Odin announces that he is about to enter the Odinsleep to recharge his powers and orders Thor to protect Asgard, but Thor refuses and leaves for Earth instead, to defend it against the new and varied threats cropping up there.

The Enchantress watches Thor leave, then transports herself to the Isle of Silence with her ally, Skurge the Executioner. There, Loki tells them that all is going as he planned, and that no one knows what's coming next.

Monday, October 5, 2020

SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN PART 3

JULY 29TH, 1968 - OCTOBER 12TH, 1968
OCTOBER 14TH, 1968 - JANUARY 4TH, 1969
JANUARY 6TH, 1969 - MARCH 15TH, 1969
MARCH 17TH, 1969 - JUNE 14TH, 1969
JUNE 16TH, 1969 - AUGUST 30TH, 1969
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Last week I spoke a bit about the stakes in these Corrigan stories feeling extremely minimal. You go into every single arc knowing that not only will Corrigan win, nobody will die and the bad guys will all be captured, and he'll move along to his next mission the very next day. I suggested just a little bit of lethality to perhaps up the ante for our hero. I noted that otherwise, things might get tedious as we move along.

It occurred to me after I wrote those words, however, that there are other ways to break up the tedium, and Archie Goodwin's plotting may be part of my problem here. He writes every arc as straight and episodic as possible. There are no twists or turns. Corrigan shows up, finds out what the problem is, then solves it; the end, on to the next unrelated story. No wrenches are ever thrown into his plans. He never gets blindsided. And, while I have gone on record before as saying that I enjoy watching hyper-competent characters do their thing and succeed at everything, that's not exactly what this is. Hyper-competence is great, but it works best when the characters are using it to overcome serious obstacles. Corrigan tends to sleepwalk his way through every situation, because there are no obstacles that challenge him, and no villains he can't outwit in a very straightforward fashion.

I guess what I'm getting it is that I don't necessarily need to see anybody die to make these stories more compelling. I just need some better plots from Archie Goodwin! Sub-plots, twists, continuing continuity, and so forth. This was something Goodwin and Williamson did pretty well in the STAR WARS newspaper strip of the early eighties. They actually had ongoing plotlines outside of the current story arcs, and they had arcs that built upon one another (and sometimes led directly from one to the next) toward a narrative finish line. That is what I hope to see them bring to Corrigan! Otherwise, it just feels like going through the motions in every storyline.