Monday, September 15, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #16

"WHO'S THAT LADY?" | "CALL HER... CAPTAIN MARVEL!"
Plotted & Scripted by: Roger Stern | Drawn by: John Romita, Jr. & John Romita, Sr.
Lettered by: Jim Novak | Colored by: Stan Goldberg | Edited by: Tom DeFalco
Travel Reservations by: Jim Shooter | Proud Wife & Mom: Virginia Romita

The Plot: At the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Peter is waiting to pick up Harry and Liz Osborn when his spider-sense alerts him to potential danger from an attractive woman. He follows her outside and changes into Spider-Man. The woman is nearly mugged but takes out her assailants with a quick martial arts display. But when Spider-Man innocently approaches her, she shocks him with a burst of energy, then changes into a costume and flies away.

Atop the Empire State Building, she flashes back to her origin: her name is Monica Rambeau and she was a Harbor Patrol officer in New Orleans, known as a loose cannon. When an old friend of her grandfather came to her for help shutting down a renegade weapons development program off the coast, she agreed. But in the process she was electrocuted by the experimental weapon and endowed with radiation-based powers. Calling herself Captain Marvel, she quit the Harbor Patrol and traveled to New York to seek help controlling her powers before they could cause her to explode.

Spider-Man tails Captain Marvel from the a Empire State Building to the Fantastic Four's Baxter Building to Avengers Mansion, where the Avengers' butler, Jarvis, asks him to fight her after believing she has knocked out Iron Man maliciously. But it was only an accident and when Iron Man comes around, he breaks up the fight and works together with Spider-Man to contain Captain Marvel's powers.

As the Thing arrives to check on Cap, Spider-Man departs the mansion and returns to Port Authority to meet the Osborns.
Backup Features: The annual feature two pin-up style pages, featuring "The Many Loves of Peter Parker" (Liz Allen, Betty Brant, Gwen Stacy, Cissy Ironwood, Glory Grant, Debra Whitman, Marcy Kane, and Mary Jane Watson) and the staff of the Daily Bugle (Jonah Jameson, Betty Leeds, Glory Grant, Ben Urich, Charlie Snow, Jacob Conover, Lance Bannon, and Joe Robertson).

The Sub-Plots: As a stand-alone Annual, this issue features no sub-plots.

Continuity Notes: This is the first appearance of Monica Rambeau, the second Captain Marvel, following the original's death months before in Jim Starlin's graphic novel, THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL. Monica possesses electromagnetic powers, including the abilities to phase through walls, travel at the speed of light, move through electrical circuits, and shock and zap her enemies.

The facility where Monica gains her powers is a Roxxon oil platform leased to a sinister South American scientist named Felipe Picaro. It is one of Felipe's men who inadvertently names Captain Marvel. After he hears her scientist friend, Dr. LeClare, affectionately call her "mon capitaine", and then after seeing her use her powers, he begins deliriously repeating "the captain is a marvel" over and over in Spanish.

Monica's initial costume is created from various parts of old Mardi Gras outfits she finds in a warehouse. Later, Dr. LeClare provides her with an identical suit made of unstable molecules.
At the Baxter Building, Monica marvels at the damage caused by a recent skirmish in FANTASTIC FOUR #242.

This issue features a rare appearance by Harry and Liz Osborn, though going forward they will begin to feature more frequently in Stern's stories once the Hobgoblin appears.
After Captain Marvel remains among the avengers following the stabilization of her powers, a blurb on the story's final page tells readers to watch for her next appearance in AVENGERS #227 (on sale in October).

Uncle Rog Speaks: "I tried to pace the origin of the new Captain Marvel like a classic Stan Lee story: we would establish the character, then show the cosmic accident that transformed her into Captain Marvel, and finally zip back to the actual story, wherein she solves her current problem. It was structured a little like FANTASTIC FOUR #1, with an origin that could be pulled out and reprinted separately." -- COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN, Titan Books, 2004

John Romita, Jr. Speaks: "I just took out some reference on Pam Grier, because I always loved her, and at the last minute somebody said, 'Well, we need to use this woman, here,' because they thought maybe Pam Grier wasn't as good-looking as the model that they found." ... "So I couldn't make [Captain Marvel] look like Pam Grier anymore, but to me she was Pam Grier." -- MODERN MASTERS VOLUME 18: JOHN ROMITA JR., TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008

My Thoughts: This isn't much of a Spider-Man story. It's a vehicle, a "backdoor pilot" of sorts, for Stern to introduce his new Captain Marvel, who will soon join the Avengers now that he's begun writing their title as well. It works fine as an origin story, but anyone who picked up the issue looking for some sensational Spider-Man action in the Mighty Marvel Manner may have been disappointed. The wall-crawler spends most of the issue getting zapped by Marvel, then constantly one step behind her as he pursues her around New York. He does play a role in the story's finale, working in tandem with Iron Man to get Captain Marvel's powers under control, but one imagines that Iron Man probably could've handled the situation himself if necessary.
That said, there are some fun moments in the issue. There's a scene where Spider-Man arrives at the Empire State Building's observation deck just after Captain Marvel departs, having spotted her destination -- the Baxter Building -- through a set of those coin-operated binoculars. Spidey tries to get a look at where Marvel is headed, but the binoculars shut off before he can. Naturally he has no quarters on him, so he's forced to panhandle from a child. It's a great moment, and really something that would only happen to Spider-Man, harkening back to the Lee/Romita days.
Later, when Jarvis discovers Captain Marvel standing over an unconscious Iron Man, his reaction is priceless. He calls her a "shameless trollop" and then races out of the room in search of help. I've never known Jarvis to jump to conclusions like this, but then I haven't read a ton of AVENGERS comics. Perhaps this was his established personality at the time.

Anyway, like I said -- as an origin story it's fine. As a Spider-Man story, not so much. But it's a fun read and the artwork by John Romita, Jr., inked by his legendary father, is a treat. So if for no other reason, the issue is worth reading for that alone.

Blurb courtesy of issue 237.

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