Monday, February 10, 2014

Micronauts Monday, 2/10/2014

Hey there, Donist World denizens. Welcome back to Micronauts Monday, where I talk about my longtime favorite comic book series The Micronauts. You'll get a summary of the issue, my remembered reaction/experience with the comic book as a kid, and my thoughts as an adult after rereading the issues over the past week. The Micronauts is the book that introduced me to the wonderful world of comic book addiction. The sad thing about this amazing series is--as I explained in the first post here--is that if you haven't read the comics, doing so is going to be a bit of a hunt, since reprinting rights are firmly wedged into a Prometheus Pit of a printing-rights purgatory. But don't despair, it can be done, you can find them. has most of the main series for a fairly inexpensive price. If you want to dip your toe into the glory that is the Microverse before committing to a hunt for individual issues, then you could also check out the five "Special Editions," which I believe had two or three issues included in each. Or, better yet, if you have an opportunity to do some longbox diving into the $.50-$1.00 bins at your LCS, then I'm sure you can find many issues there. My only caution here is that the story has a tremendous narrative that builds over the course of the series, one that deserves to be read in order, but that said, any Micronauts is good Micronauts! 

I'm going to spoil things ahead of time by saying this round of issues and the next 20 or thereabout mark an immense change in the quality of the art and the story. After the predominantly lackluster past six issues, #19 kicks off an engaging ride that builds upon the greatness established in the first 12 issues and makes an already fantastic series even better. I can't wait to read what's coming!

Micronauts Monday

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Micronauts #19
The Micronauts #19 Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Pat Broderick, inked by Armando Gil, lettered by John Costanza, colored by Ben Bean, edited by Al Milgrom, published by Marvel Comics. This issue we catch with Bug, who after the death of his ladybug Jasmine, wandered off to have some alone time to process his loss. On his excursion he comes across a farm and comes into contact with one of the substances he hates more than anything...water. Bug realizes he is on Earth, a most unsettling situation indeed. As Bug stirs up a ruckus with the barnyard animals, the farm's owner, Odd John, comes to investigate. Unfortunately for Bug, Odd John is something of an insect specialist who has been experimenting with a mutagenic gas on his captive pets. Odd John is also a touch mad.
Young Donist - The cover to this issue blew my ever-lovin', 10-year-old mind. First we have my favorite character front and center, the sub-title confirms this is Bug's issue, Bug has been turned into a flying monster, and the artwork looks to match that of the first 12 issues. This is winning on every possible level. I'm pretty certain I found this issue at the Summit Hills Mall in Akron, OH and part of me wants to believe that I bought this book and then went to see The Empire Strikes Back immediately afterwards. Heck, this day was so monumentally awesome, that I would not doubt I also bought a new Micronaut toy, and went roller skating at the roller rink, followed by dinner at the Red Barn. Before I even cracked open this issue, it was destined to be my favorite comic of all time at that moment. Then I opened it.
Inside there was no Michael Golden to be found, but there was definitely a new artist. Holy...cow...the first page alone was stunning and had a return of the coloring schemes I had loved six-months earlier. But it was the four-panel layout for pages two and three that melted my dagburned eyeballs. This is Bug. This is how he is supposed to look. The action, the style, the threat, everything was exactly what I hoped to see--no, everything was better than I could have ever imagined. Then we catch up with the other Micronauts and Commander Rann looks amazingly heroic, and every character leaps from the page. Then my heart expanded with love as I came to the splash page of the mutated Bug...I wished so hard for a duo-set Bug toy (one for normal Bug and another for mutated Bug); unfortunately these never came. The issue ended with a cameo by next issue's guest star, Ant-Man, and the terrible, horrendous agony of waiting for the next issue began. No longer was I willy-nilly picking up issues. I was now a freshman comic book collector. This comic is the one that stretched my mom's patience to the point of breaking, pushing her toward a special realm of madness reserved for the parents of kid's begging to go to the mall every single day on the off chance the new issue of their favorite comic was released. Sorry, Mom, I love you, but I also love The Micronauts, and we should remember that time not as one that nearly broke you, but as one that brought us closer together. Right? Mom?... Mom? VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Current Donist - Yes, I vaguely know what's coming and I'm excited to get there, but in case you missed all the gushing above, this issue changed my life. I am pretty sure I only missed one or two issues prior to the series going to the direct-market-only model after issue 37. The Golden art on the cover is fantastic and would still visually leap out from the stands today with the white and yellow background and the eye-catching mutated Bug. I still smile when I see see this issue's cover, remembering the fantastic day I picked up my copy. Even if I could remove all of the nostalgia and the warm-fuzzies I get from reading this issue, I would still love every dang page of this comic--despite the fact we only get 17 pages of content.
The page three and four spread is phenomenal, and Broderick carries the action perfectly from the first panel on this page all the way through to the end of the book. He breaks panel borders at just the right moment, and the emotion and drama of each character's face tells you everything you need to know. He even manages to make Odd John, an unnerving bad guy for a normal human, a sympathetic person as we see flashbacks of him being bullied as a youth.
On the writing side, Mantlo has returned to form, with the shockingly jarring exposition moments of the past six issues mostly left behind. The tone of the book returns to one of menace, but with Bug as the focus for this issue there are some fun and laughable moments, before we see aspects of the lurking horror elements found last issue.
With a compelling story that gets under your skin and new art that launches the book into overdrive, this issue is just as engaging as it was when I ten-years old. The "guest-appearance" by Ant-Man doesn't bother me in the slightest, and I am so psyched to re-experience what happens next, I stayed up late to keep reading. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Micronauts #20
The Micronauts #20 Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Pat Broderick, inked by Armando Gil, lettered by Jim Novak, colored by R. Slifer, edited by Al Milgrom, published by Marvel Comics. Bug mutated and leading an army of mutated bugs on a rampage, Acroyear and Cilicia brought down, the Endeavor crash-landed, and Odd John about to add Commander Rann to his bug collection via a pin through the sternum?! Our heroes were not left in a good place last issue. Princess Mari finally shows that she is a brilliant and skilled warrior as she rushes to save the man she loves, and she succeeds in taking down Odd John. After briefly interrogating the mad man, the Micronauts learn of Bug's location and rush to help their friend. Thankfully, they have the help of none other than Ant-Man!
Young Donist - "Finally! Finally! Finally!" was the cry I gave when I finally found this issue at the newsstand--my poor mother probably said the same thing. I burned this cover firmly into my mind with the groovy mutated ants (I was confused as to why the one top center had different eyes, but whatever) and the oblivious Ant-Man. This book was everything I hoped the followup would be. Seeing the unconscious Commander Rann about to be pierced through the chest with a needle freaked me out on so many levels, I'm certain I had a couple of bad nights of sleep because of it. Odd John taking a hammer to the head probably messed me up, too. Princess Mari, however, wowed me with her skill and determination, and seeing Monster Bug in action, before reverting back to normal--thanks to Ant-Man--left this young Donist immensely satisfied as he sat in the living room drinking his massive, opaque, blue Hi-C beverage. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Current Donist - This issue still gets me pumped. I know I keep coming back to Mari taking down Odd John, but the four-page sequence is fantastic in dialogue and imagery, especially over page two and three. The look of determination on Mari's face as she leaps from one panel into the next and to the panel where she drops down onto the hammer to send it flying at Odd John's head, all play out like a movie with my mind filling in all of the undrawn frames. Ant-Man is great in this issue as well, and although he only happens to meet Biotron--Bug does not count because he is a monster when they meet--he is a great addition to the story and one of the few instances when a "guest-appearance" actually pays off. I also loved the single panel of the Micronauts launching into battle with their gliders as they prepare to take on Bug's mutated ants. Although this issue was not as dark as the previous one, it was the perfect followup to the Bug-centric tale I loved so much as a kid. My only nitpick is that this issue is also only 17-pages long, but Mantlo's dense story, and Broderick's fantastic art made the missing pages of content almost unnoticeable. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Micronauts #21
The Micronauts #21 Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Pat Broderick, inked by Armando Gil, lettered by Tom Orzechowski, colored by Barry Grossman, edited by Al Milgrom and Louise Jones, published by Marvel Comics. After last issue's battle with Odd John and the mutated Bug, the Micronauts find themselves separated on the world of giants known as...Earth. Commander Rann is once again unconscious, and it is up to Princess Mari to keep him alive, only this time in a plant shop. When the shop owners boyfriend appears, Mari instantly has a bad feeling about him, which is confirmed when the man dons a green costume and announces himself as Plant Man; no good will ever come of such a thing. After that, a 5-page backup story beginning the "Tales of the Microverse."
Young Donist - Oh man! Here's my heroes peeling back the pages of the comic to reveal the Microverse springing to life. It's so cool that I almost missed reading the non-descript proclamation of "Starting this issue: Tales from the Microverse." Upon closer inspection, however, I'm really confused as to why Bug now looks like an old man who is missing his teeth. I shrugged my shoulders and just assumed it had something to do with what I was about to read (spoiler didn't). Like last issue, I liked seeing Mari step up and prove how formidable she is, but at this point I would like to see Commander Rann in a state other than catatonic...he's the first Micronaut for cripe's sake! I don't know who this Plant Man guy is, but he looks cool and I liked watching Rann and Mari take him down. This was a fun book, but it was the twisted, messed up, "Tales of the Microverse" that really tweaked my young impressionable mind. We get the time traveler, tons of Acroyears, these faceless silver guys, and most dastardly of all...the resurrection of the fiercely evil Prince Shaitan. The reintroduction of Shaitan made this issue VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Current Donist - Denizens...I love the analogous color scheme on Golden's cover of the Micronauts. It drops them into the background causing the Microverse to burst from the page. Inside the book, we have the expected great writing, art and colors on what is a basically filler tale. This is not a bad thing, as the story is a heck of a lot of fun to read and watch as Rann and Mari's love for each other blossoms--although I hope Rann stays conscious for the next couple issues. This is another 17-page comic that feels much denser than it actually is with a 12-page main story and the key draw of the "Tales from the Microverse" feature. Mantlo and Broderick setup the backup beautifully with the first page instilling a grand, dark forboding, followed by a page two that is chilling. With Shaitan alive once again, I cannot wait to see what happens next...and I already know what happens next. By golly, I love this. Both the story proper and the back up are VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Micronauts #22
The Micronauts #22 Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Pat Broderick, inked by Armando Gil, lettered by Tom Orzechowski, colored by Bob Sharen, edited by Louise Jones, published by Marvel Comics. As an ex-employee robs a McDonald's, the Micronauts once again face down an angry Earth vehicle. It's fast food mayhem as the Micronauts stop a robbery and reunite once again. In "Tales of the Microverse," after a terrifying firestorm, Slug (ex-rebellion leader, bride-to-be to Prince Argon) notices that as Homeworld is pummeled, Karza's abandoned Body Banks remains untouched. She is shocked to find the someone lurking within, only to be rendered unconscious by the unexpected inhabitant!
Young Donist - I was so happy to have the latest issue, but I have to admit being slightly miffed that my favorite heroes were once again facing down a truck. <sigh> Once I opened the book, the creators left me absolutely no choice but to be engaged as the truck barreled down on Bug, Acroyear, and Cilicia. Seeing Acroyear tear the hood off the truck left me cheering, as well as suddenly being fine with another traffic-based issue. The burglar was cool, but seeing Acroyear stop a bullet was freakin' amazing. Bug bouncing off of hamburgers, Acroyear falling into the fryer, Mari being lowered in front of a guy reading a all cracked me up. "Tales From the Microverse" should have had a soundtrack built in, because I imagined dark "bad-tidings" music playing as I read up to the point of the shocking Body Banks inhabitant's betrayal. I definitely gasped at that. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Current Donist - What you have here is another filler 12-page story, that is a lot of fun. All the goofy moments I loved as a kid, still make me smile today. Dialogue, captions, art, colors, it all works in perfect harmony, and I once again have to praise Broderick's fantastic take on this tremendous series as he makes this run his own. The backup is tense, exciting, creepy at times and does its job with expert precision as I'm biting my nails to see what happens next. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

That's it for now, and I hope to see you next week where I'll be looking at issues 23-25. These are once again issues that build toward the events going down in the "Tales of the Microverse" backup. The menace and tension are only going to get stronger from here on out, denizens, and I'm...forget it, I got some Micronauts comics to read.  Thank you for stopping by.

While writing this entry, I listened to the Hans Zimmer's "The Man of Steel OST". Check it out if you have a moment.


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