Wednesday, December 9, 2015



Story: Mark Gruenwald
Pencils: Paris Cullens & Ron Lim | Inks: Tony Dezuniga w/Jim Sinclair
Letters: Ken Lopez w/Joe Abelo | Colors: Gregory Wright
Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: Beginning in England in 1928, the origin and history of Doctor Herbert Wyndham's path to becoming the High Evolutionary are told, from his days as a biology student at Oxford up to the point he declared the "Evolutionary War".

Continuity Notes: Well... where to begin? This story is one huge continuity note, as writer Mark Gruenwald codifies all previously known tidbits about the High Evolutionary and his acquaintances into one serialized story. I'll do my best to list everything I came across, but while my Marvel knowledge is pretty good, I'm no Gruenwald, so it's probable I missed a few things.
  • He meets Jonathan Drew, father of future Spider-Woman Jessica Drew, at a genetics conference in Switzerland in 1928.
  • The keynote speaker at the conference is Dr. Wladyslav Shinsky, an eventual member of the Enclave, a group of Fantastic Four villains and creators of "Him", who would become Adam Warlock (more on Him below). Also at the conference is Dr. Arnim Zola, an eventual foe of Captain America.
  • Wyndham and Drew created a "Citadel of Science" at the base of Wundagore Mountain in the Balkan nation of Transia, using Subterranean Moloids as their labor force.
  • The Citadel is located near the ancestral home of Baron Gregor Russoff, ancestor of Jack Russell, Marvel's WEREWOLF BY NIGHT. In his werewolf form, Russoff kills Drew's wife, Merriem.
  • Jessica Drew, daughter of Jonathan and Merriem, suffers radiation poisoning and is placed into suspended animation by Wyndham in 1931. Between this and his wife's death, a despondent Jonathan leaves Wundagore.
  • Fantastic Four enemy Puppet Master, a.k.a. Phillip Masters, also lived in Transia as a child and was friends with Jessica.
  • The High Evolutionary's armor was originally created as protection against the werewolf.
  • Jonathan returned to Wundagore possessed by a sixth century sorcerer named Magnus, who was once an enemy of Morgan Le Fay (she of the greatest dress in the Marvel Universe). Magnus reveals that the Citadel of Science is constructed atop the burial mound of the demon Chthon.
  • Magnus spent over a decade in the body of Jonathan, helping the High Evolutionary create his animal-spawned "New Men" and training them as knights to battle Chthon.
  • The night Chthon finally returned to Earth happened to be the same night a gypsy named Magda, babbling about her monstrous husband, Magnus, found sanctuary at the Citadel and gave birth to twins, Wanda and Pietro. Wanda was touched by Chthon's dark energy immediately after birth. Magda then left the Citadel rather than raise her twins.
  • Robert and Madeleine Frank, former superheroes Whizzer and Miss America, came to the Citadel two days later to give birth as well. Madeleine and the baby died in labor and the Evolutionary attempted to pass off Wanda and Pietro as Robert's children, but he fled rather than accept them.
  • The High Evolutionary then presented Wanda and Pietro to a gypsy couple named Django and Marya Maximoff in a camp near Wundagore.
  • Some years later, in the pages of THOR #134 - 136, the High Evolutionary had his first appearance and fought alongside the Thunder God against his rogue creation, the Man-Beast, before leaving Earth with his New Men.
  • The Evolutionary lost control of the New Men and summoned the Hulk to fight them for him in TALES TO ASTONISH 94 - 96. The Evolutionary was mortally wounded in the fight and used his machines to evolve himself into a being of pure energy.
  • Some time later, the Evolutionary returned to his mortal form, albeit evolved about 100,000 years beyond a modern human, and created the planet of Counter-Earth.
  • The High Evolutionary met Him and rechristened him Adam Warlock, appointing him the guardian of Counter-Earth. Warlock teamed up with the Hulk to fight Man-Beast, then left to explore the universe. Subsequently, the Evolutionary protected Counter-Earth from Galactus
  • Warlock eventually returned to Counter-Earth and, thanks to the sinister Soul Gem which adorned his brow, mistakenly believed the High Evolutionary had destroyed the planet. He attempted to kill the Evolutionary with the Soul Gem.
  • The Thing, Alicia Masters, Aleta Starhawk, Moondragon, and Warlock's female counterpart, Her, restored the High Evolutionary to normal after Warlock's attack. He found Counter-Earth had been stolen and went in search of it.
  • Upon realizing Counter-Earth had been taken by a race of Beyonders to serve as a curiosity in their museum, the High Evolutionary lost his will to live and asked the Hulk to kill him. Hulk did so, but the Evolutionary's armor restored him to life with new purpose.
The High Evolutionary's Plot:
"I have been to both ends of human evolution. I have known first-hand the humble origins of life on this sphere -- as well as the ultimate genetic destiny of the Earth's highest lifeform, man...

"My encounter with the Beyonoders has demonstrated to me that mankind's genetic destiny is not glorious enough. left to our own natural path, we will never be the equal of the Beyonders.

"Thus, someone must guide the path of man's evolution and provide a catalyst to further our race's genetic potential. This someone, of course, must be me.

"I hereby assume proprietorship of man's racial destiny. Under my guidance, the human race will evolve further than the Beyonders, further than any other race in existence!

"No matter what it takes, I shall not stop until man reigns supreme in all the universe!"
So that's what he was up to! (Seriously -- we knew he wanted to evolve humanity for vaguely defined reasons. Understanding this earlier than the final chapter of the serial after the main feature in the final issue of the crossover might have made the guy seem like a sympathetic antagonist rather than the colossal A-hole he came across as in most of the previous installments.)

My Thoughts: I should note up front that I'm a sucker for stories like this. It's mostly just a bunch of previously told events with bridging transitions provided in between, but that's okay. I love when comic book historians are able to take a bunch of various tales written by several different writers and massage them into a cohesive whole. It's something kind of unique to comics, and it's one of my favorite comic book story concepts.

And there were few better suited to something like this than Mark Gruenwald. The man had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Universe, and while I haven't read all the stories he references here, I have read some and I believe the way he ties them all together is pretty impressive.

That said, there are some items with which I take issue. First and foremost, there's a mysterious figure in a top hat who appears to Wyndham twice in the story; once to give him a DNA map which helps him with his research very early on, and again a few years later to introduce him to the Subterraneans in order to build the Citadel of Science. This man's identity is never revealed. Narration informs us that Wyndham would never learn who he was, but it seems odd to me that the story doesn't throw us that bone, considering that it meticulously explains every other facet of the High Evolutionary's history.

(I've learned from a little research that this guy is Phaeder, an Inhuman geneticist created by Gruenwald and his then writing partner -- and this serial's editor -- Ralph Macchio, in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #72, from 1981 -- but why he isn't identified here mystifies me.)

I also find some of the timing odd: Magnus lives in Jonathan Drew's body for ten years and the Evolutionary believes the entire time that his old friend is delusional but never tries to fix him? The Franks just happen to show up at Wundagore right after Pietro and Wanda were born? (To be fair, this was established prior to Gruenwald's story.) There are bizarre coincidences to be found as well, such as young Phillip Masters being a neighbor of Wyndham and the Drews, but again, this is just Gruenwald working around things set up by previous writers.

So the story hangs on coincidence and unusual timing, but in a way this makes Gruenwald's accomplishments in weaving all this stuff together even more impressive. Obviously in subsequent years the High Evolutionary's past would be further changed by other writers (we would learn, for example, during Spider-Man's "Clone Saga" that Professor Miles Warren spent some time at Wundagore as the Evolutionary's protégé), but for its time, this story is about as thorough an effort as anyone could've provided.


  1. I felt the opening chapter is very reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West, the Re-Animator with all the antics of a scientist who is brilliant in all the wrong way. and eerily feel the name Herbert Edgar Wyndham is not at all coincidental but intentionally harking back to Lovecraft's story, E. Allan Poe and John Wyndham.

    Magnus spent over a decade in the body of Jonathan, helping the High Evolutionary create his animal-spawned "New Men" and training them as knights to battle Chthon. --clip--
    The night Chthon finally returned to Earth happened to be the same night a gypsy named Magda, babbling about her monstrous husband, Magnus

    "What, another Magnus? Must be a clone... I'll have young Miles take a look into that."

    The High Evolutionary met Him and rechristened him Adam Warlock, appointing him the guardian of Counter-Earth.

    I assume you have read the issues in question. I snorted. :)

    1. Heh. The dual "Magnus" jumped out at me, too. Must be one of those names (like "Warlock") that comic writers can't resist using.

    2. Wow, Teemu -- I'm sure you have to be right about the Evolutionary's real name being based on Lovecraft and Poe. Makes perfect sense. Now I'm curious when exactly his name was revealed and who gave it to him. For all I know, it was Mark Gruenwald in this story.

      The Magnus business is funny. That's what happens when disparate stories get tied together, I guess. Weird little coincidences like that stick out.

      And yes, "rechristened" was an intentional joke -- though I admit I have not actually read his original stories by Roy Thomas and friends, I've read all the subsequent Jim Starlin stuff many times and I'm well aware of the earlier stuff via flashbacks.

    3. Oh bloody hell. I spent way too much time looking up every outing of the High Evolutionary on M. Unlimited, just for the scholar gloating rights, but I have to report that if it didn't come up in one of the Spider-Woman issues MU is missing, then they never told us his real name before this. A shocker, he's since always been H.E. Wyndham to me. (just noticed: H.E. *snort*)

    4. Now you have me wondering if "H.E." is intentional too. I feel like it must be, and in that case I bet it was Mark Gruenwald who named the Evolutionary, since he seemed to be fond of stuff like that.

    5. You know. I have now accustomed myself to every outing of H.E., and unless his name didn't come out in the Official Handbook of MU, then we can lock this story and Gruenwald. Spider-Woman #1 is especially careful in not naming the scientist who was pals with Jonathan Drew.

    6. Ha, the scan for the original H.E. entry for TOHOMU is easy enough to find online, and it DOES name him as H.E. Wyndham. Gruenwald is one of the writers, so it's a bit inconclusive. But, likely.

    7. According to John Byrne, Mark Gruenwald made up a great deal of the real names revealed in OHotMU, so I'd say it's pretty likely he's the one who named the High Evolutionary. Thanks for doing the research on that, Teemu!

    8. ... and then I find that someone else commenting on Spider-Woman Origins post on SuperMegaMonkey Marvel Chronology site has a while back attributed the name to Herbert George (H.G.) Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and John Wyndham. Certainly more sensible than 2/3 of my choices, especially Burroughs' "Tarzan and the Lion-Man" goes very close to H.E. with a ghastly English scientist who infuses genes of dead British nobles into apes making them intelligent.

      But, Gruenwald.

    9. I wouldn't be surprised if the influences on the Evolutionary's name were all of the things you've unearthed. Why couldn't it be a mishmash of Wells, Burroughs, Wyndham, Lovecraft, and Poe? He certainly seems to be the four-color Marvel super-version of that sort of a Gothic archetype.

  2. The Franks just happen to show up at Wundagore right after Pietro and Wanda were born? (To be fair, this was established prior to Gruenwald's story.)

    This was a product of awkward retcon upon retcon. Back in Giant-Size Avengers #1 it had been revealed that the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were the children of Golden Age heroes the Whizzer and Miss America (and the Invaders series did its bit to reinforce the connection). However not all Marvel writers agreed with this and some felt it ignored hints given elsewhere.

    A second retcon established Wanda and Pietro were in fact the children of Magda, a wandering woman who arrived at Wundagore fleeing her unnamed powerful husband, and she left the children there. When the Franks arrived the Evolutionary and Nova tried to pass them off as 2/3 of triplets, but Madeline & her natural child died and Robert fled. Elsewhere it was revealed Magda was the wife of Magneto but it would be a few years before he and the children found out about each other.

    The moral of the story is that it's pointless to retcon in these family connections years later as they require a mess to explain how it's a revelation and later writers may decide to change this again.

    1. Thanks, Tim. I can only imagine what their origin is these days, since I understand Marvel has undone the connection to Magneto. I'm curious if it happened by way of ret-con again -- which seems like it'd be really hard to pull off at this point -- or if they just flipped the Scarlet Witch's "realty warp" switch and had her change it in-universe. Someday I'm sure I'll look it up and find out...

    2. I must beg to differ: I skimmed through GSA #1, and just love how in "Yesterday Quest" they harked back to the panels in question in GSA #1 to show that technically all that really happened but that there were larger shenanigans going on off-panel there. I find the delivery masterly, and the re-retcon sensible and a great and ever-giving call.

      Though, I also insist that Cable and Stryfe are really Thomas and William Maximoff, so there's that to hold against me if one so wishes.

      Please don't tell me it's them damn movies (and character rights peccadilloes) seeping onto the comic book pages with the re-re-retcon.

    3. I believe it is due to the movies and rights issues that Marvel has changed Quicksilver's and the Scarlet Witch's origins. Same reason they navigated a ridiculous series of hoops to give us a movie-based Nick Furty in the main universe a couple years ago (which is especially bizarre and funny since the movies' Fury was of course based on Ultimate Fury).

      I've pretty much given up on following Marvel at this point. Too many relaunches and ret-cons and everyone is an Avenger for some reason. As far as I'm concerned, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were, and always will be, Magneto's children. (And Polaris isn't!)

  3. love when comic book historians are able to take a bunch of various tales written by several different writers and massage them into a cohesive whole. It's something kind of unique to comics, and it's one of my favorite comic book story concepts.

    Ditto. I'm a sucker for this stuff.

    Any sense of how much massaging Gruenwald is doing with some of this material? Is he just laying out previously-established info chronologically, or are there bits of new stuff sprinkled in that he uses to line things up (kinda like how the handbooks will occasionally reveal new info in order to make sense of seemingly contradictory events)?

    1. I actually don't know how much he's done with it. I'm no expert on the High Evolutionary. I know most of the other stuff is correct, though. I suspect he really only made up the really early material, such as Wyndham's college life and maybe his initial meetings with Jonathan Drew.

      Probably also the part about how the Moloids built the Citadel, since I'm not sure how that would've organically fit into anything else, and it really has this feel of "I must explain where this giant futuristic building in the countryside came from" feel to it.