Monday, April 28, 2014

Micronauts Monday 4/28/2014

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! 

Sweet Christmas! Last week’s look at issue 50 got me completely pumped for this series, but also, snuck in with the excitement, joy, shock, and horror, was a feeling of dread…we’re rapidly approaching the end of volume one with issue 59. Crud cakes, denizens, I don’t want it to end. Especially not after the insanely great past few issues, but I can at least take solace in the fact that there are eight issues remaining from where we left off last week, and spoiler alert!…the three we look at today are great. But don’t despair. Once we reach the end of volume one, we still have a couple annuals <groan…oh no>, X-Men and the Micronauts, and Micronauts the New Voyages to look at. We’ll get to those in time, but for now…

Micronauts Monday

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Micronauts #52
The Micronauts # 52 - Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Butch Guice, inked by Danny Bulanadi, lettered by Janice Chiang, colored by Bob Sharen, edited by Ralph Macchio, published by Marvel Comics. Baron Karza lives once again, and he will not suffer rebellion in any of the spheres of his realm. First on his hit list…Waterworld. Meanwhile, the Micronauts have been captured by the star-wandering Acroyears. To save their lives and achieve his friends’ freedom, Acroyear must meet his former love, Cilicia, in mortal combat. Unfortunately for Acroyear, he no longer has his nigh-invulnerable armor, and Cilicia is all about cutting down the man she views as a traitor to their race. The Micronauts learn a secret, and Commander Rann is taught a lesson by the Time Travelers, who still refuse to offer aid against the universe-imperiling threat that is Baron Karza.

Young Donist - Okay, I had seen Baron Karza do some heinous stuff throughout my favorite series, but what he does to the mer-people of Waterworld?!?! Criminy. Seeing genocide played out panel-by-panel, page-by-page was horrifying. Even Karza’s chief scientist, the brutal Degrayde, was shocked by what took place. As cool as Karza looks, I was more than hoping to someday see Lady Coral, the only Waterworld survivor—remember, she was the only one who chose to remain human—take up the trident and at least foil Karza’s plans in a coming issue. <brrrrrrr and grrrrrrr> To further traumatize my 12-year-old mind, we have Acroyear and Cilicia meeting in combat to the death, when one is just wrong about their assumptions of what happened to Spartak (the former Acroyear world) and the other would never harm the person he loved. The whole situation was just so messed up.

This issue also had a ton of words, which usually intimidated me, but with this issue I began to understand more about drama and pacing, and that all of the words were not necessarily an exposition bomb, but had something meaningful to contribute to what was happening; I didn’t skip a word of this issue. Those final three panels on the final page made me sad for my favorite heroes, but despite the downer feeling I had, I often returned to this issue over the years to watch a beautifully choreographed battle between two characters I adored. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Current Donist - I’m going to start with a negative here. Why was/is it a “thing” to depict a key turn, a spoiler, on the cover of the book you are reading? I hated DC’s fairly-recent “WTF” month where they flat out spoiled the surprise of the issue. Ugh. The Micronauts #51 showed a battle between Acroyear and Cilicia, yet they only got around to preparing for a battle in the actual issue. This issue shows Cilicia with her stomach bared with sparklies coming out of it, as Acroyear looms shocked in the background. What is someone with half a brain supposed to gather from this? Oh whoa, Cilicia’s pregnant! That is indeed a cool twist, and one that ultimately loses its impact when you actually reach that intense moment on page 24. Why do this, denizens? Why?! <sob> Okay, griping aside, and the fact that the cover for issue 51 should have been the cover for 52, and the cover for 52 left as a pinup at the end, let’s focus on how tremendous an issue this actually is.

The cover, although unnecessarily spoilerish, is gorgeous. I love the look on Acroyear’s face, the sadness and shame of Cilicia’s body languange, the predominantly monochromatic red scheme, and the wonderful highlights on Acroyear’s face; it’s a beautiful cover. The interiors, though…man, oh man. This issue may as well be a Guice showcase titled “How To Create a Sequential Masterpiece by Butch Guice.” From the 50%/50% vertical split page (half roll call, half Karza looming in the sky above Waterworld) on page one,  through the beautifully choreographed fight scene, to the final page that maintains the emotional punch it did three decades ago, every panel is stunning. *I need to see if I can find any images of the original black and white art for this issue on the web*

Despite wanting to see this issue as only the original art, this is not to say that the lettered dialogue and captions are not worthy of greatness; there is nothing further from the truth. A few of the past issues throughout the series really beat the reader up with the exposition, but not here. Yes, there are tons of words on the page, but Chiang’s lettering keeps it all “hidden,” and every word balloon and caption box enhances the wonderful story. The entire issue plays clearly in my mind as if I were watching a cinematic movie. Young Donist loved this issue even though there was no grand battle between the heroes and villains. Current Donist loves this issue because of this fact, and calls #52 a triumph. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Micronauts # 53 - Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Butch Guice, inked by Butch Guice (?), lettered by Janice Chiang, colored by Bob Sharen, edited by Ralph Macchio, published by Marvel Comics. Having gained the understanding of his people, Acroyear receives new armor and his “traitor” mark stricken, but Cilicia will not reign by his side. Instead the Acroyear people will await the birth of the their child before they have a new ruler; they will also not partake in any move against Baron Karza. The Micronauts then decide it is time to bolster the ranks of the rebellion and head to Prisonworld, where they find the less-than-lawful inhabitants have taken to a certain stray, genre-specific broadcast from a planet called Earth.

Young Donist - I had no idea what I was looking at on the cover, but I liked it. The Micronauts as mobsters seemed like an odd direction to go, but I loved the costume designs enough to be fully onboard—so long as it was for only an issue or two. Seeing Acroyear get his armor back had me muttering a prolonged “Yesssssssss!” I also dug the confrontation with the entranced Commander Rann and Fireflyte, and finally accepted his beard and his belief that gaining the aid of the Enigma Force is the way to go.

I will say that after the emotional one-two punch of the previous issue, I was relieved to get down to a slightly more light-hearted story; complete with violence, mayhem, and death. In truth, this issue was fun and faithful to the story I hold dear. The cliffhanger of the G-Men villains left me amped for the next issue. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Current Donist -  Now this cover is more like it. Nothing spoiled, but you are given a glimpse into what you can expect with this issue. I love the darks in the background and the spotlight on my heroes successfully gives the impression that this is a crime/noir story. I also suspect that seeing Mari with the garter and the heavy eye makeup rewired something in my young mind that now makes me partial to…let’s just completely bury that thought while I still can. <phew> Anyhow, I still adore this story. Even though it is sort of a break from the main conflict, it is a welcome diversion as it seems that the creators had a heck of a good time putting the book together. The dialogue, although silly in parts, made me smile, and seeing the Micronauts wail on their foes was awesome. Again, there were tons of word balloons and captions, but it did not pull me out of the story at all.

The art in issue 52 looks different from issue 51, and 53 looks different from 52. I'm not sure what it is, as Guice pencilled and inked both 52 and 53, but it is the style that is slightly different. This is not a negative, I’m merely pointing out that something has changed, the book still looks as fantastic as ever. The only thing that stands out—and I noticed this as a kid—is that Bug’s antennae have tripled in size and look kind of doughy. Not sure what this is about, but it’s fine. The various designs of the alien prisoners are insanely cool, and the mobster costuming is great. Man, this was fun. Also…Huntarr is my BOY!!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Micronauts #54
The Micronauts # 54 - Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Butch Guice, inked by Kelly Jones, lettered by Janice Chiang, colored by Bob Sharen, edited by Ralph Macchio, published by Marvel Comics. The Micronauts are on Prisonworld attempting to plant the seeds of rebellion, but now they face off against Karza’s inhuman G-Men, monstrosities created for only one purpose: death. Between the G-Men and a squadron of dog soldiers, the Micronauts take down plenty of adversaries, but they are eventually overcome. Thrown into the prison system, they receive an unfair trial and are sentenced to death. With their lives on the line, what role will the inmate known only as “Murder-1” play when it comes time to flip the switch?

Young Donist - Okay, this cover freaked me out. Mari front and center with a look of fear on her face as the rest of her team lies at her feet? <brrrrr> Not to mention the blood red background and the shadowy figure with their hand on the switch…I dove into this issue like a wild cat. My first reaction was “Hey! Why doesn’t Huntarr get featured on the roll call? That’s not cool." What was cool, however, was launching into the action and seeing the fight between the Micronauts and the G-Men. I loved that some lost, some won, but in the end there were just too many dog soldiers running around. Mari whupping ass is an awesome high point at the beginning, but that blow she takes to the head made me shudder. Once in the prison, I loved loved loved the page where Acroyear keeps tapping the green froggy fella on shoulder until the point the creep turns around and Acroyear clobbers him; too funny. I also liked the idea of Murder-1, but I didn’t like his gross, lumpy-headed character design, but even that was not enough lower my estimation of this great issue. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Current Donist - Yup, I’m still loving this two-part storyline quite a bit. Again, the style is different with this issue, but this time, it is the addition of new inker—and future Micronauts artistKelly Jones to the mix. Like I said on issue 53, this is not a negative, as this is yet another gorgeous issue, it is just a noticeable change and something that should be pointed out. Seeing Mari pummel the bejesus out of…well, everyone…still has me crushing somethin’ fierce on her, but overall there’s not much more for me to say about this this beautifully illustrated, superbly-written finale to this two-part storyline. As much as I loved this issue, the back cover foretells “Huntarr Hunts alone!” and I could not be more excited to read it. That said, the conclusion to the Prisonworld storyline is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Oh crud. Only five issues left in the first volume, and I already have a major case of the sads setting in. But let’s ignore that feeling, denizens, let’s keep focusing on the awesome times we had and the promise of the “Huntarr Hunts Alone!” story in the next issue, that I distinctly remember as having messed me up for a while as a kid—by “messed up,” I mean it was dark, gnarly, but crazy good. Thank you so much for reading, and leave me a comment if you have a moment, as I would love to hear about YOUR favorite issues, artists, characters, experiences with this phenomenal series.

While writing this entry, I listened to Spotify’s prebuilt station titled “Intense Studying,” which consists of all classical tracks and the ultimate in wordless background music that is perfect for…well…studying, or writing, or creating. There are also some fantastic soundtrack compositions from both Amelie and The Piano included in the mix, so check it out.


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