Monday, February 26, 2018


Micronauts vol.1 No. 45
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Gil Kane and Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

The Micronauts begins to really take advantage of that direct market distribution with this issue. There's a startling pinup taking over the indicia on the inside cover, but any reader who made it all the way to the end of the book would also notice -- wraparound covers! I'm terrible at uniting those so you'll just have to take my word (this one isn't terribly exciting, anyway, unless you like the sight of the back of Arcade's chair)

And speaking of which  -- it's Arcade! He was such a weird, almost ill-fitting type of villain in Marvel Comics of the Seventies and Eighties. He struck me as the type of villain who would have felt more at home building deathtraps for the Justice League back when they headlined Brave and the Bold, or confounding the Human Torch and Thing in Strange Tales. I think Arcade's actual gimmick isn't that he creates these oversized, juvenile deathtraps, but that he's a Silver Age villain in the high-mortality world of the Bronze Age.

What really is the difference between video murder machines and a cathode killing ground?

From his vantage point off the Florida Keys, Arcade attempts to abduct the X-Men by way of long-distance, lightspeed laser-beam! It never makes it to New York, though, colliding as it does with the ray-beam in which the Micronauts had been trapped by Computrex last issue.

This puts Arcturus Rann, Microtron, Nanotron and Devil in the clutches of Arcade, who had been expecting (as he exclaims) "Cyclops, Storm, Sprite, Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler!" You know, I have an interview in which Mantlo described the X-Men and the Micronauts as having direct parallels with one another. Well, these four ain't those six, is all I can tell you. But they'll do -- Arcade promptly attempts to execute them via video games, transferring their energy-transformed selves into the computer program ...

Meanwhile, Acroyear and Bug are leading a raid on the Body Banks of Homeworld, freeing thousands of citizens who were condemned to be transformed into Dog Soldiers. There's a neat, new dynamic forming with these two characters -- Acroyear is a distant, brooding figure who leads the troops, Bug is the populist rebel who rallies them. And as for Marionette, the third member of the refounded rebellion ...

She is fucking awesome. Marionette raids the dungeons of Prince Argon's castle to liberate Prince Pharoid, and confront Slug about her apparent impending nuptials to Argon. What she ends up finding is Belladonna (actually Slug in Belladonna's body) poised to kill Slug (actually Belladonna in Slug's body) as Argon looks on and laughs cruelly. I'm pretty sure that this is the first scene ever in the Micronauts where the sole male character is outnumbered three-to-one by the women. This is great because, up to this point, most of the women in this book spent all their time either swooning or getting murdered.

Marionette straightens out the Slug/Belladonna issue, but it's no longer her primary problem. As it is, Argon has revealed his ominous energy form to his sister, leading to a cataclysmic battle between the two, the likes of which we have not before seen Marionette undertake. It looks awesome. Look. Look at it. Look.

Argon comes out on top, disabling Marionette as "The pain is indescribable as Force Commander extends his evil energy through the body of  his sister." That, I think, is the current top trend on PornHub.

The energy blasts Marionette out of the high window of the throne room, apparently to her death. She is also ... green. Check back in later, folks!

Anyway, the Arcade battle doesn't have a lot of story, but a sudden burst of character development happens: Nanotron, who'd started her isolation in her individual deathtrap by pleading "If only my beloved Microtron were here to tell me what to do!" gets sick of getting knocked around, and fights back. Finally. A character.

Microtron, for his part, stops mooning over his Love Roomba for a minute and actually figures out how to resolve the problem! He transforms everyone back into matter from energy and the fight is taken to Arcade! In the middle of the refrain from "Pac-Man Fever," Arcade is assaulted by the doll-sized Micronauts. At one point, he feeds Devil his catchphrase, which is the single most villainous thing he's done this episode.

Arcade escapes, leaving the Earth-bound Micronauts aboard his soon-to-self-destruct seastead headquarters. The Micronauts no longer have the Astrostation, or the Endeavor! Their glider wings are limited, and Devil ain't got one (good!). What are they gonna do? This is a good cliffhanger!

Over in the lettercol, I got a laugh outta this short exchange...

And then this guy, whose tune has undergone a change ...


Eric said...

What really is the difference between video murder machines and a cathode killing ground?

Murder is the unlawful killing of one human being by another, while killing is a more general term. Presumably, the conversion means the devices are now suitable for killing Microtron, Nanotron, and Devil instead of the X-Men? (And also possibly for killing Arcturus Rann depending on whether anthropoid Micronauts are simply very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very tiny humans or represent some other species that somehow came to look just like humans through the wonders of convergent evolution?)

When they were just video murder machines, three out of four Micronauts were really pretty safe! (Maybe even four for four!)


Jonathan Morris said...

No one ever comment ever again. You can't top this.

Dale Bagwell said...

I'm just amazed at the artwork and attempts to integrate the visuals of the 80's arcade phenomenon into the story, which I feel it did pretty well. Mantlo (and Kane) was the man.

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