Monday, May 5, 2014

Micronauts Monday 5/5/2014

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 can’t believe it, denizens. I feel like I just started this “Micronauts Monday” thing, and now we’re practically at the end of the first volume. Crazy, but I’ve had a blast revisiting this series as both my younger and current selves. Never fear, though, even after next week’s installment wraps up the first volume, we will still have a couple annuals <oh boy>, X-Men and the Micronauts, and Micronauts the New Voyages to check out. But that’s the future. This week, however, let’s start with an issue that tweaked Young Donist and messed with his fragile little mind in all sorts of ways. Let’s check out “Huntarr Hunts Alone” as seen in issue #55!

Micronauts Monday

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Micronauts #55
The Micronauts # 55 - 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. *Hey! I warned there might be spoilers, and boy howdy here they come!* Princess Mari has had it with her lover, Commander Rann, and his meditations, his chanting, his patchouli-incense burning time spent listening to Fireflyte’s mystic song. Enough’s enough. Mari has found the friendship, the camaraderie, the compassion, the touch of someone else…her teammate Bug. As the two dress and discuss their next move against the despotic Baron Karza, Commander Rann’s meditations have once again brought him to the Temple of Time, where he will plead with the Time Travelers to loan him the use of the Enigma Force to finally end Karza’s madness; he is surprised to find another traveler already conversing with the nigh-omnipotent beings. Back on the Bioship, Huntarr is missing from the fold as he has gone on a solo mission to find his family, and hopefully a link to regaining his humanity—he will not like what he finds.

Young Donist - <blargle…pfffffftttttt> (That is the sound of green-flavored Hi-C spraying out of my nose.) “Marionette? Bug? Dressed in the nakeds! Did they…did they…have THE SEX?! What about Commander Rann? Sure, he’s a hippy now—what girl wants that?—but he’s Mari’s boyfriend for cripes sake! I mean, Bug is cool—really cool, actually—but Mari and Rann are girlfriend and boyfriend?! Does this mean they are getting a divorce like Mom and Dad did? What is THE SEX? The Playboy magazines I have seen never prepared me for this…” Remember, denizens, I was twelve when I first read this issue, so there were some gaps in both my knowledge and experience, which is shocking, I know; despite what you think, I have to admit that I was no Pootie Tang. After these rather saucy three pages, despite my excitement to see Huntarr whupping ace, I went outside to sit on the back stairs to contemplate and…dare I say…meditate on what I had just witnessed in the pages of my favorite comic. As I sat there, watching a crow steal my dog Tippy’s Gravy Train kibble and dip it in the water bowl to soften it, I just could not understand what I had just read. There was a level of sexiness on those pages that managed to surpass most everything I had seen in those Playboy magazines, an intimacy that I had only seen in a handful of movies, but those movies did not have characters to whom I was so devoted, who I loved so deeply. My meditations went on for an eternity…they were the longest five minutes of my life. I went back in the house after the crow screamed at me; I had 27 pages of additional abuse waiting for me inside.

Oh boy, here we go. The next few pages of Rann approaching the Temple of Time to find a fellow pilgrim there shocked me, but not as much as the reveal that it was Baron Karza himself, and the Time Travelers were actually listening to him. Then we cut to Acroyear fighting holograms until Shaitan his deceased, evil brother, and Cilicia, his former wife who now hates him, appear and practically kill him because his tortured soul won’t allow him to fight back. Put it this way, I almost went back outside to meditate for another minute or two. Thankfully, the next page showed Huntarr transformed into the shape of a rocket and soaring through the Microverse on his way back to Homeworld. This is where things get rough again. I’m not talking about the awesome moments of Huntarr trashing the bejesus out of Karza’s forces, or his impressive transformations, but the flashback of his screwed up youth before he became a living weapon, and more traumatically the reunion with his mother. When Huntarr goes to his childhood home, which has fallen to ruin, he actually finds his mother; he wishes he hadn’t. The once beautiful woman is now hideous after being experimented upon. After a quick hug and an apology to her son, she tells Huntarr that his little sister is part of Karza’s breeding program; she then stabs herself in the stomach with a knife. Dude! Three minutes of meditation on the back stairs.

Back inside the house, I pick up at page 18, after Huntarr has blown his old home to kingdom come. I am happy to see Lady Coral watching the destruction with interest, but I am more thrilled to see Huntarr annihilating every dog soldier he comes across, and he even transforms into a spider thing and a crude simulacrum of a dog soldier as he infiltrates the “Nursery” and lays waste to even more dog soldiers. After the disturbing craziness of the first half of the book, I cheered louder than usual to release my pent up uneasiness, but then I get to the page with hundreds of babies crawling around the floor of the Nursery. Then Huntarr finds his sister who is completely out of her mind. As for what happens next…I’m not going to spoil that other than to say it trumped everything else that came before it in this issue. Back outside to meditate, this time for five whole minutes. I will say…in all seriousness…Guice’s imagery of Huntarr’s mother and sister gave me troubled dreams, if not a few all-out nightmares. This issue messed me up, denizens, but that in no way means I did not like it. Heck, the opposite is true, I simply loved this issue, especially Huntarr kicking butt, and those racy images of Mari and Bug...hubba hubba. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Current Donist - I’m going to keep it brief here. I love love love this issue. Sure, in 1986 Batman the Dark Knight Returns, brought about an industry-wide change in the way comic book stories are told, but The Micronauts was dealing with some mighty dark subject matter back in 1983; the characters were just not as widely known. This issue is heavy, even for an adult, but there is so much going on with the story and with Huntarr’s development as a character that 30 pages of uninterrupted material is barely enough to contain it all. The pacing is nothing to sneeze at either, as those first three pages that troubled me so much as a kid show Mari, wearing only a sheet, talking to someone off-panel. The reveal that Bug is the one sharing her bed is startling, but makes sense given what the characters have been through. I will say that Guice turns the sexiness of these panels “up to 11,” and he gives us some fantastic character acting as well. The brief Commander Rann and Karza bit is cool, but the story with Huntarr is pure horror/sci-fi that I will return to when I want to see how to put a character through their paces, and how to properly tell a tale of personal tragedy. Both Mantlo’s dialogue as well as the situations are amazing, and Guice’s art is beyond gorgeous throughout. While I sneak another peek at the oh-so-sexy Mari getting dressed as Bug and his six-pack (crap…I need to go for a run and lay off the beers) lounges in the bed, just know that this is yet another exemplary issue. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Micronauts #56
The Micronauts #56Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Butch Guice, inked by Kelly Jones and Sam Grainger, lettered by Janice Chiang, colored by Bob Sharen, edited by Bob Harras, published by Marvel Comics. If the Micronauts are to take down Baron Karza, then they are going to need more troops. With the inhabitants of Homeworld already under Karza’s iron heel, and the Acroyear race on the sidelines, Bug suggests recruiting his people. It’s off to the paradise world of Kaliklak. When the Bioship arrives, the Micronauts find the planet under siege by an infestation of devouring battle beetles that threaten to kill the unborn queen (remember, Bug’s Queen Esmera died back in the monumental issue #28!). The problem with this, and Karza is fully aware, is that only a queen reproduces, and there is only one queen; if that queen dies, so does the inhabitants of Kaliklak. Meanwhile, Commander Rann and Baron Karza once again go to the Temple of Time, where the two enemies are given what they want, which turns out to be different than they had hoped.

Young Donist - <phew!> No need to go outside and meditate after reading this one, although Mari and Rann ending the issue with a kiss as Bug cheers was a bit…confusing. This issue is all about the Micronauts beating the heck out of a bunch of giant beetles and fighting their way to save the unhatched Kaliklak queen. At the height of his evil, Karza willingly becomes human, and what’s better than that? Why, Bug and the Micronauts riding giant, domesticated Battle Bats! After the seriousness of last issue, I was thankful for the rollicking adventure found within these pages. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Current Donist - There’s not much to say about this issue. I loved it as much as I did back when I was twelve and for most all of the same reasons. I love that we get to return to Kaliklak, only with Guice’s lovely lines to give the paradise planet the look it deserves; just have a look at the pages 8–9 double-page spread of Bug, Huntarr, Mari, and Acroyear gazing upon the red planet in wonder, and you will see what I mean. *also, what does it mean when a letterer (I’m assuming) misspells their own name in the credits?* It was also cool to see that Jasmine, Bug’s dead lady love, has a younger sister, Treefern, who’s all growed up and giving Mari something to be jealous about. It’s also crazy to see Karza attain godhood, only to reject it because he would no longer have cause to be an evil a_hole…he likes being an evil a_hole. This issue is fun, moves the story forward in an unexpected direction, and is every bit as enjoyable as it was when I was a kid. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Micronauts #57
The Micronauts #57 Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Butch Guice, inked by Kelly Jones and Sam Grainger, lettered by Rick Parker, colored by Bob Sharen, edited by Ralph Macchio, published by Marvel Comics. 48-page spectacular! On the world of Never-Summer, a tribe of humanoid wolverines battle a rival tribe of humanoid beavers for the scarce food on their snow-covered lands. Unbeknownst to them, Baron Karza seeks to annihilate an entire world with a giant magnifying glass in hopes of forcing the feistier planets to step into line. Meanwhile, Commander Rann has rejoined “his” Micronauts, but does not understand “his” team’s more ruthless ways. When Mari and “her” Micronauts hear of Karza’s diabolical scheme they rush to help despite Commander Rann’s protests. In the end, a great leader will be the one to sway the course of battle on a world that has forgotten summer.

Young Donist - I was beyond thrilled to have 48 pages of my favorite comic and was totally fine with the <sob, I miss those days> $1.00 cover price at the time. I enjoyed the book, but did not understand why this tribesman received so many pages as opposed to my heroes. Still, I appreciated the character’s ultimate roll in the story, and I understood his tragic fate, but I wanted more pages of the Micronauts themselves. RECOMMENDED!

Current Donist - I like this story more now, than I did as a kid, and I recognize that the clash of the wolverine tribes and the beaver tribes was a story Mantlo was excited to tell.That said, this issue does seem a bit off in the storytelling, but I ultimately enjoyed finding out more about Ojeeg the hunter of Never-Summer, and his roll within his tribe and his role in publicly crushing Karza’s insane demonstration. Heck, Ojeeg even manages to bring to a world the hope of a life they had forgotten so many years ago.

This issue did have some problems and points of confusion that I have to point out. At times the art seems a bit disjointed, but that could be because of the size of this monstrous issue and the demands of producing 48 pages in bi-monthly schedule; I believe Guice had other books going at the time as well. On the technical side, I understand the desire to use light-blue text on white caption boxes to give that winter vibe, but this decision lowered readability quite a bit, and those important parts of the story were at times taxing to read. The other odd thing is that Karza changes into a centaur while fighting the Micronauts, which is odd in that I thought he was now human…perhaps he retained some of the changes he made to himself. Still, this is a great issue and one worth checking out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

There you have it. I know I ran long talking about issue 55, but man did that book affect me as a kid, and to be honest, it still messes me up as an adult. Anyhow, next week is it. Issue 58 ends Mantlo’s tremendous run, and is Guice’s final issue as well. Issue 59 will mark the end of the first volume and will transition to Micronauts the New Voyages, which confounded the heck out of my Young Donist mind, so I'm curious to see what I think of it today. That said, aside from one image, I really don’t remember how issue 58 ends, but I’ll tell you this denizens, I know what I’m reading this evening.

While writing this entry, I listened to Federico Aubelle’s first two albums “Gran Hotel Buenos Aires” and “Panamericana” each of which are a beautiful blend of Flamenco guitar and electronic music. Check them out if you have a chance.


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